MUNCIE -- The Muncie-Delaware County Drug Task Force and former Police Chief Joe Winkle went on a spending spree last year with forfeited drug money, including expenses for a personal trainer and a 50-inch plasma television for the city hall gym.
Even bigger expenses questioned in a State Board of Account audit of 2007 city spending include payments of $31,199 for two high-end sport-utility vehicles for DTF officers, and paying off the remaining $17,873 loan balance on accused drug dealer Adrian Kirtz's confiscated 2003 GMC Denali that sits in storage.
More than $100,000 in DTF and Muncie police spending was questioned by auditors, who shut down the DTF's checkbook last year after a decade of telling city officials that forfeited drug money and assets had to go to the city's general fund to cover law enforcement expenses.
Drug money fuels DTF spending spree, Muncie Star. Press.
Money taken through the forfeiture money avoids the problems, the stink, the debate over budgets and taxes. Or so I thought reading this:
Winkle (former Muncie police chief) defended the spending on things that included donations to traveling baseball teams, which his son participated in, and $4,294 for a personal trainer who gave police officers "boot camp training" on how to use the gym.
"I would not have done anything different," said Winkle. "If you can take money from drug dealers and spend it on the police department and the kids from this community, I have no problem with that."
Given the lack of a mandatory fitness program for police, Winkle wanted to upgrade the police gym to improve employee wellness and reduce health care costs. Hence the $21,428 the plasma TV, large mirrors and other equipment.
Winkle also had no regrets for spending $2,000 for youths to attend a summer football camp at Ball State University, or $1,000 donations to the Muncie Pirates and the Muncie Boys and Girls Club, and another $1,350 to the Indiana Bulls baseball team.
"If someone needed to do something for kids, we always said yes," said Winkle.
Why not ask the city and taxpayers to pay for all this? Laziness? Or something more insidious? Winkle sounds very upbeat unless all this money was spent in violation of the law. Which then smacks not of laziness but of corruption.
But drugs are bad and taking money from drug dealers is good, right?
When one group gets to decide what laws they will obey and which they will not, what is the difference between the drug dealer and the DTF? Both are scofflaws. With one serious difference: the Mayor and the prosecutors and the police all took an oath to uphold the laws of Indiana and the drug dealers did not.
This behavior creates no incentive to solve the problems caused by illegal drugs. I say it creates the opposite incentive of never solving the problem but only to create the need for a perpetual "War on Drugs".
We, the people, need to start thinking of the drug problem as health/medical issue rather a police problem.
As a post-script, the Muncie Star-Press has State supreme court wants documents about McKinney pay in today's paper.