By: George William
On Dec. 2nd two Dallas police detectives seized $106,829 in cash from a 25-year-old Chicago woman at Dallas Love Field. Police did not arrest the woman, who was at the airport during a layover, but suspected her of trafficking narcotics after a police dog, Ballentine, alerted authorities to her luggage. Dallas police officials spoke publicly for the first time Tuesday about the policies that made the seizure possible.
Police were able to conduct the seizure through civil-forfeiture policies, which under Texas law allow law-enforcement officials to take property they believe is part of a crime or could be part of a crime in the future. Dallas police publicly praised Ballentine on the department’s Facebook page, where they posted a picture of the dog behind dozens of stacks of cash.
“What got us here was a misstep — I think shortsighted,” Major Devon Palk said in response to the criticisms the post received. “However, I will always take the opportunity to better explain not just to the board but to the public … so that we can be as transparent as possible.”
Palk added that there’s oversight on where the funds go and how they’re used — including through the U.S. attorney’s office, district attorneys and judges that ultimately determine whether seized property should be returned.
The bulk of property seized by law enforcement can be used toward local budgets, which has led some advocacy groups to denounce civil-forfeiture laws as permitting “policing for profit.”
“Are confiscated funds utilized to fund things utilized by the police department? Yes, absolutely,” Palk said. “But they’re to supplement our expenditures, they are not to supplant. We aren’t doing this to try to increase our budget.”
In 2019, Palk said, Dallas police processed 29 vehicles and 159 currency seizures for a total of $843,463. In 2020, he said, police took 15 vehicles and 174 currency seizures for $979,773. Police more than doubled their take in 2021, with 16 vehicles and 281 currency seizures totaling $2,352,393.
“We are not out here just taking people’s money without probable cause,” Palk said. “That goes completely against what our department believes in.”