Money missing, mismanaged at JPD, comptroller’s investigation says

An investigation into the Jackson Police Department by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office was released Friday morning, drawing attention to “questionable money-handling practices” within the narcotics unit seizures and forfeitures. of Jackson-Madison County (JMCMNU) dating back to 2018.

A Jackson police captain at the center of the investigation used a safe located at the Jackson Police Department to “temporarily store funds in her custody” until she could make a bank deposit on the City of Jackson bank account.

Inquiries to JPD and former chief Julian Wiser did not receive an immediate response.

The Jackson Police Department vault at the center of the Comptroller's investigation.

An inventory of the safe taken by investigators on March 5, 2021 revealed that $399,531.26 was inside – and according to the findings, some of the money had been in the captain’s custody and control since July 2019.

Money consists of government contributions, fines, grant proceeds, seizures, and forfeitures that are used for unit-related purchases, activities, and more, including counter-narcotics operations , drug education, drug treatment programs and non-recurring general law enforcement expenditures.

By state law, all municipal funds must be paid into their official bank account no later than three business days after receipt.

After discovering that the captain was storing the huge amount of cash in the safe and had not made any deposits in the official bank account “for some time”, the management of JMCMNU took an inventory of the contents of the safe.

Investigators found discrepancies regarding at least $15,027.50 in seized cash, settlement proceeds and various payments, including a shortfall of $6,639 that investigators confirmed the captain had received but could no longer substantiate.

This was determined based on a proof form and property receipts, which indicated that the captain was the final custodian of the funds. However, the captain “could not provide any documentation” indicating that the funds had been deposited in the official bank account, and the revenue office had no documentation associated with these transactions.

Following the meeting with investigators, the captain found $1,088.50 apparently in four forgotten envelopes “under papers” in the safe.

The Captain later found and deposited cash and money orders after the March 5 inventory that totaled $7,300.

According to the comptroller’s conclusions, “investigators are questioning the fate of this money which was in his custody and control before and during the March 5 inventory. The captain claims the money was either in the pound or under his computer screen.

During an interview with the captain on August 23, 2021, the captain claimed that she “did not steal, borrow or hand over money” and that she returned “every penny” she ever had. collection.

She also said that she had indeed turned over all the money and could not explain why the revenue office had no record of all of these transactions.

However, some transactions were completed within these timeframes.

On March 19, 2021, the captain deposited $3,500 into the official bank account – funds that had been in his custody since September 18, 2020. According to investigators, the captain “could not recall the exact circumstances”, but said said the money could have been kept in the foreclosure file at the pound. She added that she thought she pulled out the folder to “look at the auction items and find the envelope with the money.”

On the same day, the captain also deposited $2,000, which came into her possession on November 20, 2020. She said she placed the envelope with the money under her computer screen, and she forgot and didn’t find her until March 2021.

On May 3, 2021, a deposit of $1,800 in money orders was made, which the captain later said were in a case of seizure at the pound, and which she “didn’t remember until until she finds them later”.

The comptroller’s investigation says the discrepancies constitute “excessive and unreasonable delays between the date of the seizures and the date the money was finally deposited in the official bank account”.

According to investigators, the money was not retrieved from the MCSO drop box until seven days after it was deposited, then would be kept in the MSCO vault for up to 108 days, and finally kept in the safe. strong JPD before being deposited in the bank. up to 609 days, far exceeding the three-day limit.

The captain says that due to COVID-19 limitations, she couldn’t use the bank’s drive-thru, which explained some of the delays. However, the evidence shows an excessive delay before 2020.

The captain also claimed that she “needed more time to verify the accuracy of the entries before depositing the funds in the bank”, and that management had not responded to her requests for assistance.

However, investigators were unable to substantiate these claims.

Issues were also found with the JMCMNU pound lot.

Goods seized by JMCMNU kept at the pound.

On August 12, 2021, investigators visited the lot to inventory and confirm selected properties seized by JMCMNU as part of the investigation.

According to investigators, although all the properties selected for review have been found, a few major issues have been uncovered.

More importantly, there was no “uniform or reliable system in place for storing, organizing, labeling and locating properties”. There was also no system in place to ensure “clear and distinct custody” of properties between staff, and properties that were already deemed unusable or had already been assigned to JMCMNU were kept impounded without attempting to s get rid of them in a timely manner. manner.

The Comptroller’s Office also carried out an investigative audit of JMCMNU’s operations in 2005 and a report in 2006, revealing similar findings and weaknesses regarding seized money.

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According to investigators, these issues “represent the root causes that contributed to the cash discrepancies discovered under the Captain’s watch and control.”

JMCMNU officials told investigators that they had corrected or intended to correct these deficiencies.

The official findings of the comptroller’s office weaknesses are as follows:

  • Lack of segregation of duties
  • Lack of documentation identifying amounts deposited
  • Lack of monitoring mechanism
  • No periodic reconciliation between JMCMNU and the Revenue Office
  • Evidence of money deposited in the official bank account by mistake
  • Obsolete JMCMNU Procedure Manual
  • Inconsistent and non-compliant processes by JMCMNU investigators
  • Inadequate document retention practices
  • Weaknesses at the pound regarding custody and disposal of seized property

The results of this investigation have been communicated to the public prosecutor’s office.

The Jackson Police Department released a statement regarding the investigation Friday afternoon:

“In the Jackson Police Department’s ongoing efforts to build and maintain trust with the citizens we serve, we acknowledge the Comptroller of the Treasury’s report that was recently released. Public trust is a valuable asset and is of the utmost importance to our daily operations as an agency.

“When the administration was made aware of issues with funds seized from Metro Narcotics, the District Attorney’s Office was contacted for guidance. Based on the recommendation of the District Attorney’s Office, we submitted that the The comptroller’s office was contacted to conduct an investigation.Jackson police cooperated fully with the designated investigators throughout the investigation process.

“However, several months prior to this finalized Comptroller’s Report, Jackson Police conducted its own administrative review. Based on the administrative review, personnel were reassigned, procedures were reviewed, and discipline was administered. The implementation of newly revised procedures, to include working with the city’s internal auditor, have been implemented to ensure a commensurate degree of redundancy for the oversight and reassignment of staff needed to oversee the process.

“With the implementation of the new procedures and the recommendations of the Comptroller’s Investigation Report, the Jackson Police Department will be proactive in ensuring that transactions are processed within established guidelines. Additionally, through partnerships Continuing with the District Attorney’s Office and the Office of the Comptroller of the Treasury, Jackson Police is committed to doing this the right way and protecting the interests of the citizens of the City of Jackson and Madison County.

“As we have resolved the issues highlighted in the comptroller’s report as well as in our own administrative review, the department will clear the merits of the report and decline any further requests for comment.”

Do you have a story to tell? Contact Angele Latham by email at [email protected], by phone at 731-343-5212, or follow her on Twitter at @angele_latham.

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