No, they have not turned into outlaws donning green tights but they have started a program to use the money seized from people who have been accused and convicted of illegal activity in a manner that benefits the community. The Sheriff’s office of Cochise County, AZ recently announced that it would partly sponsor the college education of 9 deserving high school students.
The $9000 budget of the scholarships has been adjusted from the anti-racketeering fund of the county. The money in the revolving fund is set aside to invest in law enforcement equipment and to undertake initiatives for the prevention of substance abuse and gang activity.
Typically, federal law would have prohibited the use of the money for scholarships. However, Cochise County officials clarified that the student aid was being offered in a bid to prevent children from taking to substance abuse and a life of crime.
In Arizona, 15 counties have the liberty to keep and spend forfeiture money from racketeering activity, as they deem appropriate. Police are allowed to impound vehicles and other assets and even seize cash from racketeering suspects. The law enforcement agency gets to keep the majority of the funds, which is deposited into an account managed by the county attorney’s office.
The Arizona Forfeiture Law which is considered the most oppressive and regressive in the country has long been criticized and will continue to be a subject of controversy. However, until it is changed, the Cochise County police have found a wonderful way to invest the funds in a meaningful cause.
Although federal does not allow the money to be invested in education costs that are not law enforcement related, Cochise County Sheriff’s Office manages to circumvent this rule by getting applicants to sign an affidavit saying that they will be drug free. In other words, the $1000 is being invested to keep children away from narcotics.