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RAW INTERVIEW: Chief McManus Talks About Asset Seizure Money

Updated: Tuesday, November 26 2013, 12:25 PM CST
RAW INTERVIEW: Chief McManus Talks About Asset Seizure Money story image

By: Fox S.A. Staff

The money that the San Antonio Police Department seizes from criminals is supposed to go into the department's budget in order to help fund it's crime-fighting efforts.

Fox San Antonio asked the department for public records detailing how that money is being spent. At first, SAPD said it would cost Fox San Antonio nearly $2,200.00 to get the records we requested. When we finally got them, much of the information had been blacked out.

The department claims that information involved "covert operations" and releasing it would put officers at risk.

But using a simple computer program, we were able to recover the secret information, much of which does not appear to involve covert operations.

The department spent tens of thousands of dollars on what is listed as "automotive administrative fees," plus rent for the bike patrol offices.

There was also an expenditure to send offers to a conference.

We asked Chief McManus how those expenditures would qualify for exemptions under the Texas Public Information Act.

"I couldn't tell you," he said, "I'm just telling you what I know."

It is illegal for a governmental body to fail to release a public record, or to alter the public record and present it as if it were real. McManus claimed there has been no violation of the law, but admits they've had meetings to figure out how information that should have been public, was redacted in the first place.

"We've had lengthy conversations about it - about what happened, why it happened," McManus said. "I don't know who actually redacted the document.

State Senator John Whitmire, who is head of the Criminal Justice Committee and helped rewrite the state's asset forfeiture law, says he can't imagine why the department wouldn't be forthcoming with that information.

"If you're doing something right, why wouldn't you want to talk about it," Whitmire asked. "The burden has now shifted to the department (to show) that they're doing something right with this money."

Whitmire says the aim of the asset forfeiture law is to have the departments use most of the money for equipment and training.

"We spend a lot of money on training from the asset seizure fund," McManus.

But according to a department report, SAPD took in $1.7 million into the asset seizure account in 2012 and spent only $8,882.00 on firearms, vests, and personal equipment in 2012.

And since the police department has not yet provided us with the supporting documents, we can't tell you who was trained, where they traveled, or if the money was actually used to train officers in the field.

Also, officers in tactical units are being forced to pay for some equipment like holsters and light kits with their own money, because there is not enough in the asset seizure account to pay for it.

As of last week, the asset seizure account had $2,252,340.00.

On Thursday, they Texas Attorney General's Office notified Fox San Antonio that they are now reviewing our complaint alccusing the San Antonio Police Department of violating the Public Information Act.

RAW INTERVIEW: Chief McManus Talks About Asset Seizure Money