Law enforcement bracing itself after cuts to forfeiture program

(WISH Photo)

JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) — A controversial federal program aimed at helping local agencies is coming to an end. The Department Of Justice is halting its federal forfeiture program after budget cuts.

The Institute for Justice says the program sent an extra $55 million into local Indiana police budgets since 2000. That’s an extra $55 million that taxpayers didn’t have to pay.

“We can buy things that we normally couldn’t buy with funds that the county has appropriated to us,” said Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox.

The funds came from raids that federal agencies were involved in. Earlier this year at a Greenwood motel, the county had its biggest drug bust ever: seizing over $1 million in cash, drugs and weapons. Over $3 million was supposed to be split between the sheriff’s office and federal agencies, but now the county will see none of it

“Whatever monies that we were going to get from that seizure in Greenwood, we were going to utilize some of that funding to replace laptops that are 15 years old,” said Cox.

The federal forfeiture program was halted because of the budget battle in Washington. The Department of Justice sent letters to local agencies across the country warning them of the changes. In the past, Johnson County spent the money on bullet proof vests, firearms and cruisers.

“For me, its about protecting my people. This will hurt,” said Cox.

Cox says the work will still be done and equipment will still be bought, but he says taxpayers will now have to pay for it.

“We’ve all gotten equipment more than likely with these seizure assets that we would not have been able to purchase with funds generated at the county level,” said Cox.

In an emailed statement Marion County Sheriff John Layton said:

This is a classic example of cutting off your nose to spite your face. It is a needless destruction of a good program, and an over-reaction to the Department of Justice’s problem. We are one city in Indianapolis and we need a united law enforcement effort, federal, state and local, to defend out citizenry. Unfortunately, these actions by the U.S Department of Justice tend to divide and separate, rather than combine, enhance and re-double our collective efforts. Therefore, I support the National Sheriffs’ Association and the Indiana Sheriffs’ Association call upon Congress to ensure that local law enforcement has more tools, not less, to protect our increasingly vulnerable citizens.”

In addition to money being lost, Sheriff Cox said multi-agency partnerships could be put in jeopardy because of the cuts.

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