Use Of Seized Drug Funds Sparks Controversy In Grady County

Thursday, July 18th 2013, 7:41 pm
By: News 9

Controversy is surrounding drug busts just south of the metro. 

Hundreds of thousands of dollars seized from drug dealers this year are being used to help fund law enforcement. To be exact, $1.3 million in drug money has been pulled off the highways in District 6; that's Grady, Caddo, and Stephens counties.

District Attorney Jason Hicks says he was looking for a creative way to fill a funding gap and he found it.

"We are taking drugs away from drug traffickers and we are financing law enforcement," said Hicks.

There is a lot of disagreement over a contract signed in January. Hicks entered into the contract with Desert Snow, a private company that trains law enforcement in drug interdiction. For every dollar seized from drug dealers, the company receives a quarter.  

"I thought this really makes sense because I can pair these guys one-on-one with one of my task force officers, put them on the highway and give them the opportunity to learn from the best of the best," said Hicks.

But critics like defense attorney Al Hoch do not believe the district attorney can legally share the proceeds with a private company.

"It's a contract that is not authorized by state law. So even if it's an out of the box way of thinking it's not something that is proper to do," said Hoch.

Hicks argues that the percentage given to Desert Snow only covers the cost of training. He adds that company also acts as consultants. State Auditor Gary Jones sees no problems.

"It is legal to pay for training out of that money and in the contract it is described as a training program," Jones said. 

Still, Hoch says there are additional concerns, like Desert Snow is not CLEET certified.

"They are pulling people over, making stops and arrests. They aren't authorized to do it," Hoch said.

But Hicks says that's not true. He says the instructors accompany his investigators, but do not make arrests or seizures. He also explained he commissioned the Desert Snow employees to works with the task force and under state law there is a year for a commissioned to get CLEET certified.  

Hicks says bottom line the drugs would still be on the streets and he would be making cuts without the partnership.

"I think it is something that is worthwhile and I will do it again."    

Hicks says the drug cases in question will be put on hold while he reevaluates the interdiction program. At this point, there is no word that the state is investigating.