Forfeited criminal funds bolster police department equipment

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Pictured is the interior of the Ballistic Armored Tactical Transport (BATT), which the Marysville Division of Police is hoping to purchase. Money will be drawn from the city’s police trust fund and general fund.
(Photo submitted)
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An armored car that the Marysville Police Department is looking to buy has a hefty price tag, but officials aren’t worried.
Earlier this month, city officials announced they plan to purchase a $241,300 Ballistic Armored Tactical Transport (BATT) vehicle from the Armored Group out of Michigan.
The city plans to use the police department’s trust fund to pay for $166,300, and draw $75,000 from the city’s general fund. The general fund will then be reimbursed, as the police trust fund fills back up over time.
City Finance Director Justin Nahvi said he’s not worried about the city’s ability to pay. He said last year, the fund received $83,000 in revenue. In 2013, the first year of the fund’s existence, it netted $168,000.
As of today, there’s $207,458 in the trust fund.
Officials said the fund’s revenue varies from year to year. Since the money is gained largely through donations and criminal forfeitures, the amount of new money can vary widely.
At last week’s city council meeting, members held the first reading of legislation that would allow the purchase. Marysville Police Chief Floyd Golden discussed what else the fund could be used for.
He said in the past, that money has been used for things as small as t-shirts for youth programs to an off-road vehicle used for searches.
“Those are the kinds of things we’ve used the trust fund for,” Golden said.
Union County Prosecutor Dave Phillips said the number of applications the fund can go toward is “fairly broad.” He also said equipment purchases, like the one the department is proposing with the BATT, is typical for these types of trust funds.
Generally, criminal and civil forfeitures make up a large portion of the police trust fund. For criminal cases, that includes proceeds from a crime gained during an investigation, or an item used for criminal purchases. Contraband is also eligible.
“Things that are illegal to possess are also subject to forfeiture,” Phillips said.
Some residents on social media have asked if the fund could be used to hire a new officer. Phillips said while that would likely be allowed, it wouldn’t be sustainable. There’s only so much money in the trust fund, so eventually the city would need to dip into the general fund to pay the officer.
The nature of the fund makes it difficult to predict how much money will go into it year over year. Some incidents net hundreds of dollars. On the other hand, the illegal gambling raids in 2013 netted close to $700,000 shared among several agencies. That’s partially why the fund received so much revenue that year.
“It just depends,” Phillips said.
Phillips himself supports the purchase of the vehicle. He said he was on a recent warrant and saw the conditions the Special Response Team works under.
“They’re coming from an unarmored vehicle, to a location that is dangerous,” he said. “This vehicle will protect them.”
However, that source of income has shifted somewhat in the past few years. Phillips said in 2016, the State of Ohio made it harder for authorities to make use of civil forfeitures.
The state legislature passed a bill requiring criminal charges to be filed before property could be seized.
According to Phillips, the state legislature believed the suspect’s property rights were being violated. Phillips said from his perspective, if something is attained illegally, a suspect does not enjoy property rights.
In any case, those new rules make the police trust fund more unpredictable. Phillips said it’s too soon to tell how the fund will be affected.
“We haven’t lived with those changes long enough for me to tell you,” Phillips said.
Nahvi reiterated the city’s faith in the fund’s ability to pay back the general fund loan. He said depending on how the rest of the year goes in criminal forfeiture, the city may not need to use general fund money at all, or at least not as much.
Golden said the motivation for the purchase comes from a desire to protect the city’s employees. He said the vehicle will be used to prevent harm to both officers and offenders.
He said officers wear ballistic vests not because they expect conflict outright, but because it could happen.
“I think that is the crux of this,” Golden said. “This is a vehicle that not only will transport all of our team safely, it will also house them while they’re on the scene.”
Golden said in discussing the purchase with Deputy Chief Bo Spain and Nahvi, the law enforcement trust fund was chosen to finance the purchase.
At the meeting, Spain explained a few details about the vehicle.
“It is basically a rolling shield,” Spain said.
He said it can be used in harsh weather conditions like snow or floods. It will be a base during operations and potentially a rescue vehicle when needed.
“It’s got multiple uses,” Spain said. “We feel that this is a needed item … it’s something we feel will be used more and more as the city grows.”
The legislation will return to council at its Aug. 13 meeting, where residents will be able to voice their opinions on the matter.



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