The Fishers City Council voted April 19 to use $25,000 in forfeiture funds earmarked for the police department to buy gun racks for police vehicles, although at least one councilor had concerns about how the purchase could appear to the public.
Other police departments have used forfeiture funds, which are the result of cash and property seized during investigations, to purchase items for police departments. For example, in Greenfield, forfeiture funds were recently used to outfit officers with body cameras.
The council agreed that it would be legal for FPD to use the funds to purchase new gun racks, but not everyone agreed it was the best use of the funds.
“Not only did one resident step forward to express concern (during the public comments), but we had two comments online that were submitted as public record for this meeting that were concerned about (the police potentially benefiting from the fund),” said councilor Jocelyn Vare, who cast the lone opposing vote. “I’m hearing from residents that this is sensitive, and if there is a better, different way of funding it, that’s what we should have done.”
Councilor Todd Zimmerman said it was a mischaracterization to say that FPD officers would be “benefiting” from the forfeiture funds.
“Words in our society today are very important,” Zimmerman said. “We are on an edge, and it seems like the edge keeps getting more intense by the day.”
FPD Chief Ed Gebhart said the department’s existing gun racks are defective. He said a firearm had recently been stolen from an officer’s vehicle, but that it was found and returned the same day. In another instance, he said a policeman was followed home by a suspect who intended to steal firearms from the officer’s vehicle. The attempt was thwarted before it could be attempted.
Forfeiture funds may be used to reimburse law enforcement agencies for the cost of an investigation. Other state entities receive funds from it, too, including public schools. The funds Gebhart sought to cover the racks could not go to schools because the annual percentage that goes to schools had already been allocated.