NEW HAVEN — A newspaper review of financial records by Connecticut police shows that money forfeited by convicted criminals such as drug dealers is used to buy police dogs, undercover vehicles, technology, fitness equipment and to pay for travel to events around the country.
Asset forfeiture funds for travel expenses are allowed for law enforcement. But Jonathan J. Einhorn, a former New Haven police commissioner and defense lawyer, told the New Haven Register it’s not appropriate.
“The state police have created a slush fund for vacations and travel, and that is just not the purpose,” he said. “It should be for more direct crime-fighting purposes. If I were a police officer, I would want a new bullet-proof vest for me, rather than send one of my buddies to South Carolina for a vacation.”
State police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance said travel money was used for police training at conferences. Training isn’t always available in Connecticut, and state police will spend three to five days at a conference in another state, he said.
“It is not the venue of pleasure and play. These are venues for education. We all learn from each other,” Vance said.
For example, officers at conferences could learn about a new strain of heroin in another part of the country before it migrates to Connecticut or how to dismantle a methamphetamine laboratory, he said.
The Register asked each police agency in Connecticut about the sums they received and how they spent it.
Of about $254,563 in forfeiture funds in the budget year ending in June 2013, state police reported using $4,735 for in-state travel and $34,261 for out-of-state travel.
Commissioner Dora B. Schriro of the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection said she is reviewing the agency to make sure the money is used the most efficiently, including the use of asset forfeiture funds for travel.
About 50 state police officials used forfeiture funds to attend conferences in California, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont and Virginia in the 2012-13 fiscal year.
Information from: New Haven Register, http://www.nhregister.com