HUNTERSVILLE (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Huntersville commissioners gave their police department the go-ahead to spend more than a quarter million dollars on new equipment.
The money comes from the police department’s asset forfeiture accounts, meaning the money was acquired through various local drug busts. Police leaders say all of these cases were conducted through task forces overseen by federal agencies like the DEA and Homeland Security.
Though all of the commissioners agreed that the police department should get money for new equipment, some commissioners took exception to the fact that the money would come from asset forfeitures.
In a heated moment, Commissioner Lance Munger referenced that he believed some of his fellow commissioners were working to “defund [the] police department out of fear of taking money from criminals.”
“This is not an opportunity to defund the police, this is about [the] transparency of where this money comes from,” responded Commissioner Rob Kidwell. “We don’t know where each dollar comes from. That’s an issue for me.”
The concerns partially stem from a 2020 incident in Mooresville, in which police seized a small amount of marijuana and nearly $16,000 from an unoccupied car parked at a hotel. A judge ultimately ordered police to return the money to the car’s owner.
Huntersville Police Major Barry Graham said his department only seizes money and other assets through federal task forces, and not through their own civil seizures. He also said anyone who has had money seized can appeal to the court before that money is released to the department.
“By the time they get to the end of it, there’s been several steps to ensure that they were treated fairly and their rights weren’t violated,” said Major Graham.
Major Graham requested town board allow the department to use $284,000 out of their $746,469 asset forfeiture account. That money would be used on new 9MM handguns, new light towers, a new motorcycle, a new equipment vehicle, and a new electric vehicle that would be used to patrol the town’s growing greenway system.
“We just want to start patrolling because we want to be proactive in that. We don’t have crimes and things necessarily. It’s all minor stuff. But, we don’t want that to get ahead of us,” said Major Graham.
Commissioners Kidwell and Amber Kovacs proposed giving the department the money they needed through town funds, rather than asset forfeitures until Huntersville PD could provide more specific information on where the seized assets came from. That proposal failed, and ultimately, all commissioners voted to allow the department to use the $284,000 from their asset forfeiture fund.