An investigation by Denver7 ABC discovered that the Denver Police Department (DPD) has been using its forfeiture fund to pay for video editing equipment and to enter a local Emmy competition. According to the report more than $120,000 from that fund was used to buy equipment for DPD’s media relations unit, including an Apple desktop editing system, a MacBook Pro computer and even spent $22,000 developing an app for iPhone and Android.
Detective Nick Rogers, head of Denver’s police union, criticized the spending as wasteful. “We’re spending that kind of money on videos that don’t drop the crime rate,” he said. “[Videos] don’t solve burglaries and robberies. That’s our mission and I think we lost sight of that.”
The unit also used $2,460 to pay for memberships to the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and to submit entries to a local Emmy competition. That money was requested under “Cost of Training Class,” according to the investigation. Deputy Chief Matt Murray argued that “using the proceeds of crime to become the gold standard in communication by law enforcement is truly, I think, a great thing.”
Rogers disagreed. “Winning an Emmy is a self-promotion, self-gratification type of situation that has nothing to do with … getting better at your profession.”
It’s telling the Denver Police have spent forfeiture funds so lavishly on public relations. While many agencies typically defend spending forfeiture money as a way to combat drug addiction, from 2008 to 2013, the DPD spent none of the federal forfeiture funds it received on community programs, a Washington Post investigation found.
Nor is the Denver Police Department alone in misusing funds. The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office once sent 20 lawyers to a ski resort conference with forfeiture funds.
According to the Institute for Justice’s national report on civil forfeiture, Policing for Profit, from 2000 to 2013 Colorado law enforcement agencies collected nearly $12.8 million in state forfeiture funds and an additional $47.7 million through the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program. Given such large sums, it’s little wonder law enforcement is blocking State Senator Laura Woods from even getting a hearing on a bill that requires reporting of seizures of private property and law enforcement’s expenditures of forfeiture proceeds.