The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

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May 23, 2014

Statute: Seized assets cannot be spent on roads, schools

ENID, Okla. — When Enid Police Department took possession earlier this week of an Army surplus armored Max-Pro MRAP all-terrain vehicle, reactions were mixed, but some confusion was created, as well.

The vehicle that caused so much commotion on social media, valued at $689,000, was obtained by EPD for a $2,500 transfer fee, which will be paid for with seized drug money.

Some people commenting on Facebook thought the money used to buy the vehicle should be spent on roads or schools, but state statutes require seized drug assets to be spent on narcotics enforcement-related equipment or efforts.

“There is a lot of accountability with that money and strict guidelines where it is spent,” said EPD Narcotics Unit Sgt. Eric Reddick.

He said when assets or money are seized in a narcotics investigation, they are taken into evidence and a report is generated. The case and report then is forwarded to District Attorney Mike Fields’ office, where a case is opened to seize the items or money.

A hearing is held for all parties involved with the assets. However, the burden of proof falls on the individuals who the assets or money were seized from, to prove they are not related to illegal drug activity.

Reddick said narcotics detectives can seize anything believed to have been purchased with drug proceeds or used in the commission of a narcotics-related crime.

If seized items are awarded to the department, the items can be used for drug investigations or sold at public auction, with the proceeds going to a revolving fund maintained by the district attorney’s office.

EPD Chief Brian O’Rourke said the revolving fund contains money seized in cases by all law enforcement agencies in the county, and is earmarked for the agency that contributed the funds.

“We have to make a request to Mike (Fields) in writing for those funds and what we want to use them for, which in most cases is in support of the narcotics unit for equipment, training, etc., or SWAT items,” O’Rourke said. “After we receive the money, when the purchase is made, we send copies of the invoices and proofs of purchase to the district attorney’s office to show that’s what those funds were used for. It’s all very controlled.”

State statute requires the money be used solely for the enforcement of controlled dangerous substance laws, abuse prevention and drug abuse education.

The vehicle purchased this week will be used for SWAT team activities, emergency responses and for static display at public events.

“Obviously, drug proceeds are going to be used on that vehicle for the SWAT team, which does a lot of work on these high-risk drug warrants,” O’Rourke said. “Drug seizure funds are to be used specifically for the support of the narcotics investigator function and narcotics enforcement.”

Reddick said the some of the money seized is used during undercover investigations as “buy money” to purchase narcotics.

O’Rourke said with seizures made by the department, the only taxpayer money being spent on narcotics enforcement by the department is the salaries of the narcotics detectives.

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