from the we-only-expect-accuracy-from-the-governed dept
Cops love laws when they’re using them against people, no matter how esoteric or misunderstood (by cops) the laws are. When laws are applied to them, they’re far less concerned about being law-abiding.
Kansas implemented a law in July 2019 that required all law enforcement agencies to track and report forfeiture amounts. This hasn’t gone well for the dozens of agencies now expected be just a little bit more accountable, as Duane Schrag reports for KCUR. (via FourthAmendment.com)
A review of nearly 2,000 reports filed so far found widespread inconsistencies in the way seizures are reported. More than half of the law enforcement agencies have failed to report some of their seizures as required and have done so with the blessing of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, which is charged with gathering and posting the information on a publicly accessible website.
The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is part of the problem, and is yet another law enforcement agency that seems to believe it’s not required to follow the law.
A KBI spokesman said the website is typically updated weekly, but as of late January the last update appeared to be five months old.
Called out for its lack of attention to detail and duty, the KBI swiftly responded by dumping in hundreds of reports, including some dating back to 2019.
If the KBI isn’t regularly posting reports, that means it’s not making much of an effort to collect them or, as the law specifically requires, review them to make sure everything adds up. The KBI is supposed to flag any discrepancies and ensure they’re corrected by the reporting agency. Any agency failing to do this is supposed to be declared noncompliant and prohibited from performing seizures until everything adds up.
To date, the KBI has only declared one agency noncompliant due to annual report discrepancies. This agency — the Clark County Sheriff’s Department — managed to make this single-name list twice in consecutive years. But, as the KCUR report points out, reports are considered to be “substantially” accurate, even if they’re off by $5000 or 10% of the total.
But there were far more violators than the single agency flagged by the KBI:
A review of the incident reports shows more than two dozen agencies don’t substantially match totals in annual reports filed for 2019 and 2020. None was flagged as failing to match.
For example, based on the 2019 incident reports posted by the KBI, total net forfeitures in state court by the Kansas Highway Patrol that year were $318,831. However, the KHP’s annual report put the figure at $275,825. The KBI did not flag the report as failing to match.
The KHP’s excuse for this mismatch? It claimed some stuff from 2020 was actually reported under 2019. But that only narrowed the gap in the 2019 numbers. And it expanded the discrepancy in 2020. Others with similar large discrepancies offered other excuses, like some of the cash being retained as evidence or, alternatively, that being accountable (in both senses of the word) was too complicated for small agencies with no accounting staff.
If money appears to have gone missing with no explanation when the reports roll in, the KBI has already proven it’s not all that concerned about seized cash that just wanders away from the agency that seized it.
In January 2017, $72,020 in cash was seized by Dickinson County sheriff’s deputies during a traffic stop on Interstate 70 near Abilene. Five months later, officials discovered the cash was missing from the evidence room. The cash has never been located, nobody has been charged, and in 2020 the KBI closed its investigation into its disappearance.
If there’s any upside to the new reporting, it’s this: some agencies have just decided to stop stealing stuff from citizens.
Is the KBI’s reporting system too complicated? Neosho County attorney Linus Thuston thinks so.
“There are some places that have stopped doing forfeitures because of the complicated nature of the way they are supposed to file reports with the state,” Thuston said.
Gotta love an inadvertent deterrent. Some cops have apparently decided they’ll dial back on their abuse of the public because the resulting paperwork is too much of a headache. It’s that blend of laziness, opportunism, disdain for accountability, and refusal to respect the laws that apply to them that has made them America’s Sweethearts for the last 150 years running.