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Question of the day

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

* Sun-Times

The Chicago Police Department started a secretive drone program using off-budget cash to pay for the new technology, the Sun-Times has learned.

Details of the police department’s drone program were included in an email sent last summer by Karen Conway, director of police research and development. In the email, Conway told other high-ranking police officials that the department’s counter-terrorism bureau “utilized 1505 funds for a pilot Drone program that operates within the parameters of current laws.” […]

The department’s “1505” fund is made up of forfeiture proceeds — money and other assets seized in connection to criminal investigations. The money isn’t included in the department’s official budget and has reportedly been used in the past to purchase other controversial technology, like Stingrays, which mimic cell towers and send out signals to trick phones into transmitting their locations and other information.

A state law that went into effect in July 2018 requires law enforcement agencies to report seizure and forfeiture information to the Illinois State Police.

* The Question: Should local police departments be required to transfer proceeds from the sale of seized assets to their municipalities’ general funds? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please…


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Skeptic - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 2:55 pm:

    Yes, otherwise it will be viewed as a bounty, and soon after you’ll start seeing quotas, and that never ends well.

  2. - JoanP - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 2:56 pm:

    Voted “yes”.

    If the department itself benefits from seizures, there is an incentive to seize property improperly. A lot of folks can’t afford to fight the seizures. This is a big problem.

    If the proceeds go to the general fund, there is less of an incentive for the police to do that.

  3. - Excitable Boy - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 2:58 pm:

    Absolutely. This money belongs to the public and should be spent according to a publicly negotiated budget.

  4. - Nick - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 3:00 pm:


    It creates a perverse incentive on the part of local police departments to be able to finance themselves through seized assets.

  5. - OneMan - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 3:01 pm:

    Yes, if anything they should be required to move it up to some pool that is higher than the governmental unit that the law enforcement agency is associated with.

    Better yet a generic pool that gets redistributed to schools across a state on a per-head basis.

    So there is no direct local financial incentive to seize stuff.

  6. - Realtalk - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 3:03 pm:

    Voted No, lacks transparency and goes against good government principles

  7. - Earnest - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 3:05 pm:

    Yes. People who are accountable to voters should be the ones to set and approve budgets.

  8. - Last Bull Moose - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 3:17 pm:

    No government unit should spend money without authorization through the budget process. Having the police collect money and spend it themselves sounds like rule by gangsters. Makes my skin crawl.

  9. - wow... - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 3:17 pm:

    Voted yes. Also, speeding ticket revenue should go into a statewide or countywide pool and distributed out based on population.

  10. - Former Downstater - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 3:19 pm:

    Yes. Off books money to spend is corruptive and unaccountable.

  11. - thechampaignlife - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 3:20 pm:

    I voted yes because this is an improvement over them keeping the funds that they seized, but I would still prefer the money went to social service organizations or drug treatment centers. The city still has an incentive to encourage police to seize assets when they benefit from those seizures.

  12. - Blake - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 3:25 pm:

    Yes, remove the incentive to seize, make it a more neutral decision.

  13. - cermak_rd - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 3:38 pm:

    Voted yes, as others has said, it provides a perverse incentive. I think it should go into a fund to be distributed to victims of crime. And I think traffic fines should go into a fund for victims of accidents.

  14. - TinyDancer(FKASue) - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 3:44 pm:

    They should have to account for any seizures because they shouldn’t be seizing private property in the first place.

  15. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 3:45 pm:

    I voted yes, but I would settle for much more reporting requirement around this money. It sounds like CPD’s and ISP’s reporting requirements allow for very vague descriptions about how law enforcement agencies spend this money. The drones spending should’ve never been a secret to begin with.

  16. - DMC - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 3:52 pm:

    I voted no. We need to stop bashing the police and posting signs like ACAB is ridiculous and dangerous. Instead of going to the general fund lets put all of the proceeds towards their training budget. So much more of that is needed. And while we are at and can we please address the other problem……….why are cops having so many encounters in these certain neighborhoods. But it is easier to bash something on the outside then look within.

  17. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 3:54 pm:

    === …….why are cops having so many encounters in these certain neighborhoods===

    Aw, c’mon… if you’re gonna go this far, go full… “you know”

  18. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 3:55 pm:

    Voted yes.


    === …….why are cops having so many encounters in these certain neighborhoods===

    This is a main reason.

    Back the Blue and “certain neighborhoods”… let the towns get the cash.

  19. - Annonin' - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 3:58 pm:

    Voted “no” the problem with all the open govt records stuff is the bad guys and guyettes read record too.

  20. - FormerParatrooper - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 4:03 pm:

    I vote No. No money from seizures should go to any government unit. Instead transfer that money to a fund that will distribute it to non government orphanages and homes as an idea. Others may have other ideas where the money could go.

    It should also be easier for people to reclaim their property and if the government agency who siezed it was wrong to do so, that citizen should be reimbursed for time and money spent to recover property.

  21. - Cheryl44 - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 4:05 pm:

    The money should be taken away from the police. I’d like to see it go to programs for children of the incarcerated.

  22. - Candy Dogood - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 4:17 pm:

    I voted yes simply because the Police in our country should not have expenditures that are off books and the ability to spend on programs without authorization.

    However, the overall practice should end as civil asset forfeiture rarely involves a conviction.

  23. - Give Us Barabbas - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 4:19 pm:

    Asset forfieture is out of control Nationwide, it’s corrosive to good policing. The rules need to be tightened up and the money sent to grf or social services.

  24. - OneMan - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 4:34 pm:

    == . Instead of going to the general fund lets put all of the proceeds towards their training budget. So much more of that is needed. ===

    “Well guys, if you seize another $10,000 worth of stuff we can send you to a conference in Florida”…

    No, no a 1000x times no.

    A regulator, as well as law enforcement, should have no financial incentive to do it’s job. No one’s budget should be based off of ‘how much you take in’.

    I’ll leave the ‘certain neighborhoods’ comment to others.

  25. - MyTwoCents - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 4:53 pm:

    I voted yes, but with a caveat. I don’t think 100% of the funds should be transferred, maybe a 50/50 split. There are certain police expenditures that by their very nature are not readily transparent, like the examples cited in the article of witness protection or controlled buys.

    But even if the money was transferred 100% I’m realistic enough to know that like was send on an earlier post, money is fungible. For most towns in this state if $10,000 is transferred from the asset fund to the general fund the the PD’s general fund budget would increase by $10,000.

    As for the discussion about asset forfeiture overall, yes it’s in need of reform but to say there should be none whatsoever is Pollyannaish. If I’m arrested while driving the BMW I bought with illegal proceeds with 2 kg of heroin & $5,000 in cash in the trunk the car & money should be seized.

  26. - UGH - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 4:57 pm:

    Voted yes. I want a clear transparent record of everything they’re spending. I expect the newspapers to let me know if they’re purchasing tanks, drones, any kind of equipment that is used in war. A big no to militarization of the police.

  27. - Payback - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 5:20 pm:

    Voted no only because I think that transferring these funds to the governmental units that employ them likely means that the cop backers in small townsville, not just Chicago, will still direct the excess funds to police budgets.

    I saw this trend starting circa 1989-1990 when DEA agents were being given paramilitary training for drug lab raids (think Clear and Present Danger/Tom Clancy) by Army instructors at Ft. Benning. Militarized policing has been planned for many years, here you see the results: secret budgets, and the American people are the enemy.

  28. - yinn - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 5:26 pm:

    I voted yes, because of experience with a similar off-budget situation in 2013, give or take a year. PD in my city secretly (with permission of the city manager) began to charge expenses to a new administrative tow fund instead of budget expense accounts. The PD worked hard to put $325,000 in fees and fines into admin tow, which it spent on everyday expenses as well as furnishings for the new police station. When caught at it, the city pledged to account for the expenses back into the PD budget, which resulted in an audited deficit of $600,000 for the fiscal year (on a budget of $9.5 million). The return to budget transparency resulted in admin tow revenues dropping like a rock — right now they’re projected at less than $150,000.

  29. - charles in charge - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 5:27 pm:

    I voted yes, but the real answer is that, to the extent that seizure and forfeiture of property is allowed at all, it should only be for violations of State or federal law, and any proceeds should go to the State or federal GRF, and never directly to law enforcement agencies. Cops should never be financially incentivized to seize property.

  30. - Responsa - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 5:34 pm:

    Asset forfeiture is overdone in some areas to be sure. In other areas it is not abused. The control should be on properly and fairly managing forfeiture for law enforcement purposes- not just giving it to Municipalities’ general funds to mis-spend or mis-incentivize.

  31. - Actual Red - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 5:43 pm:

    I voted yes for the reason so many others pointed out - its bad to encourage police to seize property like this.

    That said, I also agree that asset forfeiture is out of control and the money should probably be retained for a time until it can be fully determined whether the seizure was proper.

  32. - @misterjayem - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 7:04 pm:

    “We need to stop bashing the police and posting signs like ACAB is ridiculous and dangerous”

    No one should post a sign that says “ACAB is ridiculous and dangerous.”

    – MrJM

  33. - @misterjayem - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 7:13 pm:

    If unelected cops want more money they need to request it from somebody who’s been elected.

    That’s how democracies work.

    – MrJM

  34. - Rabid - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 9:02 pm:

    A private slush fund is not acceptable for the department

  35. - Friendly Bob Adams - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 9:10 pm:

    How is it even legal to spend money not appropriated by a legislative body or approved by some executive officer? It sounds like a slush fund.

  36. - Responsa - Wednesday, May 12, 21 @ 10:31 pm:

    ==How is it even legal to spend money not appropriated by a legislative body==

    Ever heard of the CIA?

  37. - @misterjayem - Thursday, May 13, 21 @ 10:08 am:

    ==How is it even legal to spend money not appropriated by a legislative body==

    Ever heard of the CIA?

    Are you arguing for or against these cop slush funds?

    – MrJM

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