JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's Senate took a small step Tuesday to address the complaints from schools throughout the state that cops are taking their money.
They passed a measure that would require local law enforcement to submit reports on how much criminal forfeiture money is going through the federal government, rather than through the state courts, to the Department of Public Safety.
The state constitution says criminal forfeitures, usually large sums of unclaimed money seized in drug busts, should go to education. Law enforcement, however, in many cases sends they send the money to a federal agency, like the Drug Enforcement Agency, who keeps a portion of it and returns the rest to law enforcement.
No one knows how much money is collected in forfeitures each year, but it is estimated in the millions of dollars by some legislators.
"Details are needed," said Sen. Franc Flotron R-St. Louis County. "We don't know how much money is coming in or where it's coming from," said Nor do they know where it's going, which is an issue of concern to many who seek to reform the forfeiture process.
Legislators in both houses have proposed a 50-50 split between law enforcement and education to discourage law enforcement from going the federal route with their forfeitures.
"I'm uncomfortable with forfeitures because I don't want police to be motivated to get forfeitures because they will be getting money directly from them," Flotron said.
Law enforcement is currently required to submit similar forfeiture information, but Flotron says compliance is very low. Under his bill, agencies that do not submit reports would loose funds given to them by the Department of Public Safety.
The State Auditor would have input in setting the standards of the audits, but the audits themselves must be conducted by an independent auditor.
The auditor's office is very supportive of the measure and testified for the bill in a committee hearing.
"This is a good tool to make sure law enforcement files the proper paperwork so we can determine how much of this money they are sending where," said Glenn Campbell, spokesperson for State Auditor Claire McCaskill.