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Proposed State Senate bill would change how police seize property related to a crimeSubmitted: 02/24/2017

Dakota Sherek
Reporter/Anchor
dsherek@wjfw.com


TOMAHAWK - Police departments often seize drugs, cash, and vehicles involved in crimes. Tomahawk uses up to $10,000 a year from those to fight crime. But a new bill could take that money away.

"You're handcuffing your police officers," said Tomahawk Police Chief Al Elvins.


Chief Elvins says the state senate's proposed changes to police seizure protocol hurt more than help.
"We would actually like it changed in the opposite direction," said Elvins.

State Sen. Tom Tiffany (R - Hazelhurst) helped author Senate Bill 61. Currently, if police can prove a suspect was driving in a vehicle that is delivering illegal materials, they could then file to keep that vehicle.

"We need to make sure that anyone that's declared innocent, that they be able to get their property back and that's the goal of the bill," said Tiffany.

Elvins says that the way the bill is written, if a suspect pleads down to a lesser charge they would still be able to keep their property.

"They still utilize the vehicle. And if you look at a lot of the felonious acts, they've committed these offenses several times before they actually are given the felony, are actually charged with a felony and that's something that I would like to see changed," said Elvins.

Elvins says being able to take a vehicle is a simple but effective way to fight drug activity.

"Take away these people's vehicles it makes it harder for them to come back to Tomahawk to sell," said Elvins.

Another major change the bill proposes is that police would have to give all money earned from forfeited property to the state education fund.

"It's currently in the constitution that this money be put in the common school fund," said Tiffany, explaining why all money should go to schools.

Right now police only put half of the earnings towards the school fund. Elvins says they use the other half to pay investigation costs among other things. Tiffany says those are costs the state helps pay.

"We provide for administrative costs, investigational costs, those types of things that law enforcement will be compensated for," said Tiffany.

Tiffany says that the bill is still a work in progress.

"There's ongoing negotiations, ongoing back and forth going on, to see if agreement can be come to," said Tiffany.

But as far as Elvins is concerned �" the best option is keeping that money local.

"If we're going to eradicate drugs or at least make a dent into the drug trade we have to have every tool available to us to do that," said Elvins.


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