Syracuse Police Say Their Budget is a Secret

City councilors in Syracuse, New York summoned the chief of police to a public hearing yesterday to shed a little light on the department's use of asset forfeiture to fund its operations. They did not learn much.

From the Post-Standard:

Faced with a $1.3 million request from police to buy new vehicles, councilors sought information about the off-budget cash, cars or other assets that come to the police department after being seized from [alleged! -ed.] criminals.

…Police Chief Frank Fowler repeatedly told the five councilors at the meeting he would not publicly divulge information about vehicles or equipment obtained through asset forfeiture programs.

…The money is not accounted for in the city budget.

...“Most of this stuff is used in a covert fashion,’’ Fowler said. “We don’t want the general public or the bad guys to know what we possess.’’

Both New York and federal law allow local police to seize property from suspects and keep most of the proceeds. However, the law does not require the government to actually prove that a property owner committed a crime—mere suspicion can suffice. Unsurprisingly, that means police often rip off innocent people. And they would rather not tell anyone about it.

“I’m never going to talk about it in specific terms,’’ Fowler said.… "But there are some good things that are taking place within our community with asset forfeiture (funds), and they will continue.’’

...Fowler insisted that discussing details publicly—even divulging the number of asset-seizure cars—would put his officers at risk.

That is rank nonsense, and Fowler knows it. A simple accounting of forfeiture revenues would not jeopardize officer safety in the slightest. Or perhaps Fowler thinks that this publicly available spreadsheet somehow puts police in the District of Columbia in imminent danger.

Sadly, it doesn't appear city councilors called the meeting to explore ways to protect innocent people from forfeiture. Rather, they just wanted to know if maybe they could redirect a little of the money to the city’s general fund.

Good luck with that.

For more Reason coverage of asset forfeiture abuse, click here and here.

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  • $park¥||

    Both New York and federal law allow local police to seize property from suspects and keep most of the proceeds. However, the law does not require the government to actually prove that a property owner committed a crime—mere suspicion can suffice.

    I sure am glad I don't live in New York. OTOH, I'll bet New Yorkers feel safe as hell knowing all the good the police are doing.

  • AlexInCT||

    They where pricks 25 years ago when I was there, and they look like they are pricks still today.

  • ||

    Syracuse, the only city potentially worse than Rochester. Except for Buffalo. And Albany. And Ithaca. Holy shit, upstate New York sucks.

  • Hugh Akston||

    It's a shame that drones are being used overseas when Syracuse is right there.

  • ||

    It's practically criminal.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I actually somewhat enjoyed Ithaca, even if my time there was basically all spent in a basement several floors underground. But maybe I was just pleasantly surprised how mild the "though" Ithaca winter is.

  • ||

    I almost got a saber through the lung at a match in Cornell after the tip--just the tip--broke off and nobody noticed. So I fucking hate Ithaca.

  • robc||

    In Road Trip, the University of Ithaca was portrayed by Georgia Tech.

    Even Hollywood doesnt want to go to upstate New York.

  • ||

    In Dirty Dancing the Catskills were portrayed by the Blue Ridge.

    Even Hollywood doesnt want to go to upstate New York.

  • ||

    Nobody puts Baby in an upstate New York corner!

  • ||

    In Last of the Mohicans, the no-man's land between Fort William Henry and Fort Edward was portrayed by Dupont State Forest (NC).

    Even Hollywood doesnt want to go to upstate New York.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    In the documentary Woodstock, the concert was actually held in Bethel, NY.

    Only filthy hippies want to go to upstate New York.

  • GILMORE||

    Episiarch| 2.7.13 @ 2:44PM |#

    I almost got a saber through the lung at a match in Cornell
    ...

    Whoa. I used to go to lacrosse camp @ Cornell. Then I took an arrow in the knee.

  • robc||

    And yet, they are still all better than NYC.

    Well, maybe not Albany.

  • ||

    Um, no. Not even remotely. Have you ever been to Rochester?

  • robc||

    Yes, yes I have.

    Its the only place in upstate NY Ive actually been.

    I went once in the early 70s when I was a wee lad. And once in the late 90s on business.

    As a tourist, I would rather go to NYC. If I had to buy a house and live there, well, you see the problem right there, no fucking land for my fucking yard in fucking NYC. At least, not at a price I can afford.

  • ||

    Well of course you don't have a yard in NYC. That's sort of the point. I don't have a yard in Seattle either, and I sure as fuck don't want one. I'll take my deck with views of the Space Needle and Elliott Bay instead.

  • JD the elder||

    Contrary to popular belief, plenty of places in NYC have yards, or at least gardens. When I was growing up, my friends across the street had one. The last two place I've lived had one. My apartment looks out onto a few.

  • Brandon||

    Yeah, and lower New York is just a paradise.

  • Bardas Phocas||

    "But there are some good things that are taking place within our community with asset forfeiture (funds), and they will continue."

    So, hookers and blow?

  • Matt_S||

    "We don’t want the general public or the bad guys to know what we possess."

    Yes, the "general public". Because letting the people know what gadgets and equipment the police could use to "protect" and "serve" them is so important.

    "Fowler insisted that discussing details publicly—even divulging the number of asset-seizure cars—would put his officers at risk."

    At risk of criticism, yes.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    “I’m never going to talk about it in specific terms,’’ Fowler said.… "But there are some good things that are taking place within our community with asset forfeiture (funds), and they will continue.’’

    City Councillor AC: You arrogant, insubordinate, overpaid, fucking pig. One of two things is going to happen here: Either you will provide a complete accounting of all assets seized by your department under civil forfeiture, or I'll take that shiny badge you like so much off of your chest, shove it up your ass, and run you out of our fair city on a motherfucking rail!

    /rant

  • Jerry on the boat||

    "Nice car you have parked there outside City Hall, mr. Councillor. A shame if something were to happen to it."

  • Anonymous Coward||

  • Zeb||

    Wait, aren't the city police supposed to do what the city council tells them? Isn't that their whole job?

  • Enough About Palin||

    Here's what I want to know. The cop talk about professionalism. They are professionals. Their job is highly-skilled and requires extensive training and continuing education. Again, they are professionals (in their mind). So why aren't they considered Salary Exempt and as such, ineligible for overtime?

  • Adam330||

    If these councilmen had any balls, they'd not only deny his 1.3M budget request, but zero out the rest of his budget as well. Of course they won't, because they don't.

  • Enough About Palin||

    Pigs gotta pig.

  • GILMORE||

    "Fuck you, that's why"

  • Invisible Finger||

    That is rank nonsense, and Fowler knows it. A simple accounting of forfeiture revenues would not jeopardize officer safety in the slightest.

    Sure it would. It's in the millions.

    Pieces of shit like Fowler would have people firing at their personal residences to get their stuff back when they see how much they're raking in.

  • Josua||

    Vile, worthless, evil. The act of procreation which resulted in his conception was a net waste of calories.

  • DWC||

    How on, God's green earth, is it possible, even in today's insane Amerika for the police to take the property of someone who has not been convicted or even charged with an actual crime??? I simply can not wrap my brain around it that we have actually gotten to this point. And people accept this??? Actually, I know why people accept it. They accept it because its not happening to them or to anyone that matters to them or much of anyone else. Anyone who can be proud to live in a country like this is a jackass.

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