Theft of Public Funds or Accounting Incompetence? Kansas Police Agencies Can’t Accurately Track Property Forfeitures
by Jacob Barrett
In 2019, Kansas enacted a law that requires police agencies to accurately track and report amounts seized from property forfeitures — known as civil asset forfeiture. As of 2022, more than half of the police agencies have failed to do so.
Under the law, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (“KBI”) is tasked with gathering and posting the seizure information on a publicly accessible website. According to critics, the KBI is part of the problem; the agency has failed to comply with their legal duty to report the seizures and has done little to hold their fellow law enforcement agencies accountable. The KBI is required to report any discrepancies, and any agency that fails to make the required reports is supposed to be declared noncompliant and barred from conducting any further forfeitures.
After community watchdog groups called out the KBI for not publicly posting the required information, they dumped hundreds of reports — some dating back to 2019 — onto their website. However, as of May 2022, the KBI had only declared one police agency, the Clark County Sheriff’s Department, noncompliant due to discrepancies in their reports even though dozens more had similarly failed to report accurate information.
Reports done for KCUR via FourthAmendment.com reveal that more than two dozen Kansas police agencies have failed to match their seizure totals in annual reports dating between 2019 and 2020. According to the KBI, reports are considered “substantially” accurate even if they are off by $5,000 or 10% of the total forfeiture amount. In 2019, the Kansas Highway Patrol (“KHP”) reported $275,825 in their seizure figure when the actual amount was $318,831. The KBI did not report the KHP as noncompliant, and they continued to seize property.
The law was enacted shortly after Dickinson County sheriff’s deputies seized $72,020 in cash in a traffic stop. Officials discovered that the money was missing from the evidence room five months later. Nobody was charged, and the cash was never recovered. In 2020, the KBI closed its investigation into the missing money.
Critics point out that thousands of people have been arrested, put on trial, and incarcerated for similar thefts of property while Kansas police agencies continue to rake in the tax-free bucks on the tax payers’ dime.
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