AG Holder: Under federal law, police can't take money from drug - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

AG Holder: Under federal law, police can't take money from drug busts

BUTLER COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - For the past three decades, local and state law enforcement have used federal law to seize billions of dollars in cash, cars, and other property. Those days are over.

The Justice Department has now barred state and local police from using the federal forfeiture program called Equitable Sharing.

It was designed to help fight the war on drugs, and enabled departments to make seizures, have federal agencies ok the move, then let that local department keep the majority of the profit.

Civil liberties groups have criticized the program for years since that property was taken without a criminal charge, or even proof a crime had been committed.

But local agencies like the Butler County Sheriff's department say they will be affected by this change in federal law. And when they're affected, your safety could be too.

“You hate to say it, but you feel like it's just a good year to be a drug dealer,” said Butler County Sheriff Mark Dobbs.

“The only place you can affect a drug dealer just about is in prison, or taking their money and assets away,” said Poplar Bluff Police Chief Danny Whiteley.

But Dobbs and Whiteley, who also serves as project director on the SEMO Drug Task Force, say this new move from Attorney General Eric Holder with hurt their departments and Restrict abilities of law enforcement.

“The problem grows and the money is going to shrink,” said Dobbs.

Dobbs and Whiteley say a lot of functions in local law enforcements are funded by money they seize from drug busts.

For example, we took a look at the equipment room in the Butler County Sheriff's Department.

While they don't count on this drug seizure money for the budget each year, Dobbs said the money has helped buy items in this room like bullet proof vests for officers.

He said, without this drug seizure money, that funding would have had to come from tax payers.

“When you take funding that bought equipment provided by money, it's going to affect the narcotics that was being taken off the street, not going to be able to do that anymore,” said Whiteley.

“You know what it's going to mean, whenever we make a drug arrest, a drug bust, and there's 10, 20, 50 thousand dollars that a dealer has directly from the proceeds of drug sales that we can prove, we're going to have to turn around and give it right back to that drug dealer,” said Dobbs.

While some who side with Attorney General Holder say law enforcement was buying luxury items with this money, Dobbs said they are still held accountable.

“There's always been a system of checks and balances, there's always a day in court with those seizures,” said Dobbs.

“It's a good tool, and it should not have been taken away from law enforcement,” said Whiteley.

Without this federal law, Dobbs said it can be difficult to get these seizures because the state law possibly conflicts with the Missouri constitution, and it can be impossible to use.

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