Friday, August 17, 2007

Drug war and police corruption

The drug war is a cash cow for government agencies who can get their hands on seized money and property. It corrupts. Not just at the level of individual cops, but it corrupts organizations. The police department in Austin, Texas has recently provided us with an example of how that kind of insidious corruption manifests itself.

Like many organizations the city government in Austin has policies about tuition reimbursement for employees who are pursuing part-time degree programs. Like most such organizations, but governments and private companies, the reimbursement is not 100% of the costs, they provide the bulk of the costs but expect the student to cover at least part of the costs. Unless you happen to be a senior cop who is a favorite of a police chief who has his hands on some external source of money seized as spoils of the drug war. Then you're special.

The Austin Police Department paid the college tuition, including one $13,000 fee, for at least two hand-picked senior officials to earn graduate degrees, far exceeding what most officers and other employees who go back to school receive through the city's reimbursement program.

Let's make sure we know who these special people are
Cmdr. Julie O'Brien was refunded the $13,000 she spent to earn a master's degree in organizational leadership and ethics from St. Edward's University in 2005 — a reimbursement made with money the department seized in criminal cases, which might have violated guidelines about how such dollars should be spent.

The department also picked up the bill for former Assistant Police Chief Michael McDonald, who is now an assistant city manager supervising the city's public safety agencies, to attend the same program four years ago.
O'Brien and McDonald said they entered the university program after former Police Chief Stan Knee offered to pay their tuitions in full.

This is just the beginning of what's going to come to light as a result of the local newspaper putting pressure on the police department to engage in a little public disclosure
O'Brien's tuition payment is now part of an investigation into how the Police Department has spent money seized in criminal cases during the past five years. Police Chief Art Acevedo began the investigation last week, several weeks after the American-Statesman submitted a request under Texas open records laws for an accounting of how those dollars had been spent.

A bunch of slime.

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