Georgia sheriffs fight drug seizure bill

Updated:

ATLANTA —

Sheriffs across Georgia said they are concerned that new legislation could cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars seized in drug investigations and used to purchase new equipment.

Douglas County chief deputy Stan Copeland show Channel 2’s Shae Rozzi car seized in drug investigation.

Copeland said the sheriff’s office has used cash from the sale of those cars to buy equipment like a DUI traffic trailer, a digital speed zone trailer and a shooting simulator.

However, legislation in the State Capitol would take spending authority away from police and instead let city council members and county commissioners decide how to spend it.

“I've been doing this for over 35 years and I have yet to see a board of commission or city council that knows the needs of law enforcement," Copeland said.

Copeland said Douglas County commissioners have denied the sheriff’s office request for new computers for three years, but $270,000 in drug seizures outfitted every single patrol car with a new computer.

State Rep. Wendell Willard of Sandy Springs authored the bill. He told Rozzi the bill is designed for law enforcement and will give them spending power.

Willard said the law would give innocent people whose property was seized a better chance at getting their items back. The bill would also punish law enforcement agencies that do not report what they’ve seized and how they spent the money.

“If the bill passes, if they fail to make reports they could lose the right to receive forfeited funds for up to two years,” Willard said.

The Georgia Sheriff’s Association has concerns about the gill. Sheriffs from across the state came to the State Capitol to convince lawmakers to kill the bill.

“Our seizure laws have been in effect for a long time. They’ve been upheld by the appellate court and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” said GSA president Sheriff Howard Sills of Putnam County.

To see the seized items your local law enforcement agency is reporting, and how they’ve spent the money you can click on this link.