AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

This program might violate your civil rights. Did your local cops get cash from it?

Critics say this program violates civil rights. Did your local cops get cash from it?

Local and state law enforcement officers are up in arms over the abrupt end of payments through a federal program called Equitable Sharing. The Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies rely on local and state law enforcement to conduct big investigations. So when these departments send their officers on their dime to work on a federal task force, and that task force confiscates property involved in a crime, local agencies get a cut. Hence the title “Equitable Sharing.”

Cops say it takes ill-gotten gains from drug kingpins who are so wealthy they barely flinch when agents seize their $5 million in cash. Critics call civil forfeiture “policing for profit” because your cash and other property can be seized even if you didn’t get charged with a crime.

Regardless, the program has done a lot to fund local law enforcement. Georgia agencies received $22.7 million from Equitable Sharing in 2014 alone.

Atlanta police got the biggest haul, with more than $2 million that year, which is the most current data available from the U.S. Department of Justice. DeKalb police, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Cartersville police all made more than $1 million. (Cartersville’s chief said this was an unusually high amount.)

Did your agency get cash or other property? Check out this interactive spreadsheet for all of Georgia agencies.

And here's a list of Georgia's top ten agencies, ranked by total proceeds:

Rank   Agency                                                    Total Proceeds

  1. Atlanta Police Department                         $2,040,170
  2. DeKalb County Police Department           $1,515,063
  3. Georgia Bureau Of Investigation               $1,163,772
  4. Cartersville Police Department                  $1,099,585
  5. Rockdale County Sheriff's Department    $825,876
  6. Covington Police Department                    $801,855
  7. Clayton County Sheriff's Office                  $741,897
  8. Braselton Police Department                     $727,894
  9. Forsyth County Sheriff's Office                  $713,807
  10. DeKalb County Sheriff's Office                   $678,714

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