Humphreys County Sheriff’s officers took more than $16,000 in money from their Drug Control Fund and used it to pay for things they weren’t legally allowed to, according to an audit released Tuesday.
This, of course, is money law enforcement officers confiscate from alleged drug crimes.
Members of the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office released the audit. The audit covered July 2016 through June of this year.
Sheriff’s officers spent $1,911 of that money on travel, $1,620 on sponsorships, $5,486 on repairs, $4,148 on transportation costs, and $3,031 on other materials and supplies, Comptrollers wrote.
According to state law, Drug Control Fund money can only go to local drug enforcement or education programs or nonrecurring general law enforcement expenditures.
County Sheriff Chris Davis did not return repeated requests for comment Tuesday.
County Executive Jessie R. Wallace told The Tennessee Star that county officials will work to make sure this never happens again.
“This happened through a lack of understanding and some inadequacy and interpretation of the drug fund rules,” Wallace said.
“It was nothing overt. It was just a case where expenditures seemed to fit the criteria.”
Wallace said he would not respond to complaints certain people around Tennessee make about law enforcement officers confiscating money from drug suspects.
“I don’t have an opinion as to whether this is an appropriate use of police officers’ time or whether there’s indeed policing for profit going on. I know that that’s a concern that a lot of citizens have. I don’t think that’s the case in Humphreys County,” Wallace said.
“It’s just that the rules of the state of Tennessee are set up in such a way as certain material goods or actual cash money is sacrificed through the act of a crime and those moneys, if they are drug related, flow back into a drug fund that has purpose to engage in the war on drugs. It’s all driven by state law. If there are communities or organizations that are taking advantage of that then that’s unfortunate, but I don’t believe Humphreys County is.”
In a recent post on the Humphreys County Sheriff’s Office’s Facebook page, dated Nov. 27, officers talk about an alleged meth arrest where they seized $3,000 worth of drugs and the alleged vehicle used to transport them.
The Tennessee Star and The Tennessee Watchdog have long documented case after case of police abusing their civil forfeiture powers and not keeping a proper inventory of what they had.
As reported this week, members of the Hickman County Sheriff’s Office didn’t follow state law on how they handle money they seize from criminal drug suspects.
They also aren’t following the rules on how they pay confidential informants.
Elsewhere, according to a 2015 Tennessee Watchdog report, Morristown Police seized cars and demanded cash, which a police sergeant allegedly kept for himself — $6,000 in all.
More recently, according to The Star, members of the Caryville Police Department confiscated other people’s guns and tried to trade them before getting the proper permission.
Tennessee law said they can only hold onto those guns for 180 days, but they’d kept some of them a lot longer than that — for about 50 years.
Also, as reported, in 2011, the Wartburg Police Department seized a BMW sedan after arresting its owner on narcotics charges, and, according to an audit, the police captain’s wife used it at her house.
Tennessee law says the captain’s wife, a reserve officer, wasn’t supposed to use the car for anything other than drug enforcement purposes.
As The Star reported in September, Tennessee’s civil forfeiture laws remain among the least protective of property owners in the nation, according to a State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
– – –