Denver Police investigate a shooting crime scene on Champa St. between and 16th and 17th Avenue in the Renaissance Hotel parking lot Nov. 9, 2016.
Local law enforcement agencies across Colorado received about $8 million in proceeds from property and money seizures over the past two years in a practice that police chiefs and sheriffs say could be curtailed by a new state law.
It’s money that’s at the center of a controversial new law, one that prescribes how local authorities in Colorado should handle money and assets seized during criminal investigations when working with federal agents.
The debate centers on mandates that law enforcement use state protocols for the practice, known as civil asset forfeiture, vs. federal rules, which are seen as more lenient.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers and civil rights groups who backed the legislation say it’s needed to ensure Coloradans’ due-process protections and that the practice has better oversight.
But the measure — House Bill 1313 — was strongly opposed by law enforcement because of a provision prohibiting local agencies from receiving forfeiture proceeds from the federal government in cases where property and money seized is less than $50,000. Police chiefs and sheriffs say the law will cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars each year from federal agencies that were being used for crime fighting.
But how much money and property are seized by federal authorities in Colorado? And how much of it goes back to local law enforcement?
Here is a breakdown looking back two years, though the U.S. Department of Justice cautions it does not reflect total federal forfeiture activity for each given year:
In 2016, $9 million of net forfeiture proceeds were gathered by federal authorities in Colorado, $3.1 million of which was distributed to local law enforcement.
Of that $3.1 million, the greatest amount — $378,509 — went to the Weld County Drug Task Force, according to U.S. Department of Justice data. The Northern Colorado Drug Task Force received $373,361, the West Metropolitan Drug Task Force got $367,430 and the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office got $297,753.
The smallest amount — $81 — went to the Otero County Sheriff’s Office.
See all the 2016 equitable sharing payments made to Colorado agencies here:
In 2015, $10,465,640 in net forfeiture proceeds were gathered by federal authorities in Colorado, $5.06 million of which was distributed to local law enforcement.
Of that $5.06 million, the greatest amount — $1.04 million — went to the Denver Police Department, according to U.S. Department of Justice Data. The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office received $778,643, the West Metropolitan Drug Task Force got $537,101 and the Colorado Springs Police Department got $587,637.
The smallest amount — $90 — went to the Rocky Ford Police Department.
See all the 2015 equitable sharing payments made to Colorado agencies here: