A few police departments in Oklahoma are using hundreds of thousands of dollars obtained from drug busts to fund their respective police forces. In fact, Grady, Caddo, and Stephens counties have pulled in $1.3 million in drug money.
News 9 reports:
District Attorney Jason Hicks says he was looking for a creative way to fill a funding gap and he found it.
There is a lot of disagreement over a contract signed in January. Hicks entered into the contract with Desert Snow, a private company that trains law enforcement in drug interdiction. For every dollar seized from drug dealers, the company receives a quarter.
“I thought this really makes sense because I can pair these guys one-on-one with one of my task force officers, put them on the highway and give them the opportunity to learn from the best of the best,” said Hicks.
But critics like defense attorney Al Hoch do not believe the district attorney can legally share the proceeds with a private company.
“It’s a contract that is not authorized by state law. So even if it’s an out of the box way of thinking it’s not something that is proper to do,” said Hoch.
See what happens when private business contracts with government in ways like this? It’s very similar, though not quite a full apples to apples comparison, to how the entire traffic “scameras” work.
Hicks argues that Desert Snow only really collects the cost of training and State Auditor Gary Jones doesn’t see a problem.
Jones said, “It is legal to pay for training out of that money and in the contract it is described as a training program.”
So let’s see what these costs are. In order for Mr. Hicks’ comments to be valid, that would mean that Desert Snow received $325,000 for their training. However, keep in mind that Desert snow not only trains, but they also act as consultants. They obviously aren’t providing those services for free.
After contacting Desert Snow, I was informed that the cost per person to take their Phase 1, 2, and 3 course is $990. There is also a Phase 4 class, which again costs $990 per person. So for a law enforcement officer to engage in the complete course the cost would be $1980 per person. This means that they have provided training for 164 law enforcement officers if Mr. Hicks claim is accurate. Mr. Hoch says there aren’t that many officers in District 6.
The question arises though, what happens once officers are trained and they continue to capture funds in alleged drug busts? Doesn’t Desert Snow continue to collect a quarter on every dollar? Additionally, that would leave nearly $1 million in cash. Where is that money going?
Mr. Hoch claims that there are other concerns though. Desert Snow is not Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET) certified. “They are pulling people over, making stops and arrests. They aren’t authorized to do it.” He told Freedom Outpost that Desert Snow employees testified that they drove the vehicles, made the stops and dealt with those that were detained.
Hicks says that is not true and that Desert Snow instructors merely accompany investigators, but do not perform arrests or seizures. He also said that he commissioned Desert Snow employees to work with his task force. Under Oklahoma state law, Desert Snow would have one year to become CLEET certified.
Hoch told Freedom Outpost the state law Hicks referenced only applies to employees, not contractors.
Hicks claims he would have to be making cuts without the partnership to Desert Snow and that drugs would still be on the streets. He also said that the drug cases in question will be put on hold until he is able to reevaluate the interdiction program. So far, the state is not investigating. Calls to Mr. Hicks’ office have not been returned as of the time of the writing of this article.
There is no accountability for the funds seized. Hoch agreed with me that the money seized should either be sent to taxpayers, since they pay for law enforcement or put in the state’s general fund and taxes lowered with regards to money recouped. Personally, I think we should dismantle the war on drugs, period.
One thing is for sure, drugs are still on the street and they always will be. None of this stops drugs from being on the street. The war on drugs is a miserable, costly and bloody failure. It usually ends up breeding corruption. Additionally, it causes one to wonder if quotas have to be met in these drug busts and since law enforcement is to be funded by taxpayers anyway, does anyone else see the potential for mishandling of these funds? If anything, the taxpayers should either receive a reimbursement or their taxes should be lowered as a result of the money law enforcement is taking in.
Tim Brown is the Editor of Freedom Outpost and a regular contributor to The D.C. Clothesline.