A City of Albuquerque audit
of the city police department's use of federal drug forfeiture money has
found that the department violated state law and federal guidelines by
using seized drug money to pay more than $32,000 in rent for a private
armored car company. Under the state constitution, municipalities
are barred from making donations to private corporations.
The action endangers the
Albuquerque Police Department's access to federal drug money, the auditors
warned in a report released April 28. "Ultimately they could lose
(the funds), but that would not be the first step... they could get a warning,"
said Carmen L. Kavelman, city internal auditor. "If you misuse federal
funds, you are always in danger of losing them. They are designated
for specific purposes."
Albuquerque police helicopter
Last year, the department
received $730,000 as its share of federal drug seizure funds under a law
passed in 1984. The department typically uses the money for training,
drug buy cash, cars, and computers. But when it used some of the
money to pay rent for LL&D, Inc., an armored car company, the department
not only violated state law but federal regulations, auditors said.
The unusual arrangement was
just the department trying to make amends for some Keystone Cops behavior.
LL&D was made homeless after police virtually destroyed its facility
during a 19-hour SWAT team standoff with a burglary suspect in September.
Police unleashed so much tear gas and explosives in their effort to snare
the suspect that the business could no longer operate, so the police allowed
LL&D to move into a building the department had leased using the federal
This is just the latest blow
to a department already reeling from an evidence room scandal in which
drugs, weapons, and cash have been reported missing in dozens of cases.
The state of the evidence room was so bad, local prosecutors said, they
couldn't figure out whom to charge. That affair led to the resignation
of the police chief last month.
New Police Chief Ray Schultz
does not want to lose that federal drug money, a spokesman said.
"Chief Schultz will be very diligent that all practices, policies and procedures
follow the guidelines set forth by the federal, state and local government.
He is going to be examining this audit in detail and he is going to ensure
each and every concern has been addressed for complete compliance."
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