CANADIAN COUNTY, Okla. — The debate over our state’s drug money forfeiture law is heating up.
That’s the law that allows police to seize property from people they believe are trafficking drugs.
A state senator wants to change that law, and some local law enforcement agencies aren’t happy about it.
Senator Kyle Loveless is trying to rally support for his bill that he says will protect innocent people from getting their money seized.
But the proposal will also keep drug money from going back into the local agencies that seized it, and that has some law enforcement officials pushing back.
Take a drive across I-40 and you’re driving along the biggest drug trafficking corridor in the country.
The interstate runs right through Sheriff Randall Edwards’ county.
“We’ve taken tons and tons of drugs, as well as millions of dollars from the drug cartels,” Sheriff Edwards said.
At a meeting Monday, Edwards spoke out against Loveless’ bill.
“He’s misrepresenting the truth and that’s why I’m here today, to call him out on it,” Edwards said.
The bill aims to take financial incentives away from local law enforcement in drug-related traffic stops.
Right now, the money seized goes back to local agencies.
“I think that is a symptom of the problem, where we have law enforcement agencies that are so enamored with trying to get this done that sometimes innocent people’s stuff is being taken,” Sen. Loveless said.
He says the money-driven motive is dangerous, pointing to a private company we’ve told you about before, called Desert Snow, that pocketed a lot of cash from traffic stops.
“They came upon a contract with the local DA and were able to keep up to 25 percent, not law enforcement, just your regular average citizen with a fake badge and a gun, pulling people off the road, keeping 25 percent,” Loveless said.
That was in Caddo County, and a judge has since put a stop to that practice.
Opponents of the bill say they need that money to help fund their agencies, and they argue that the money awarded to them is decided by a judge.
“They’re either found guilty and the assets are forfeited, or they’re found innocent and the assets are given back to them,” Sheriff Edwards said.
Loveless is aware of local agencies’ concerns and says changes to the bill are still possible before it’s introduced next session.