HPD says it doesn't have the money for key programs, despite having more than $13M in the bank

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu Police Department has millions of unspent dollars in a rarely-used forfeiture account, and members of the Honolulu City Council plan to question department officials about plans to use it.

The federal asset forfeiture account is comprised of money given to the department from federal agencies.

In many cases, agencies like the Drug Enforcement Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation seize property during drug busts, then sell the items for cash.

The money is shared with local police departments and can be used for almost anything -- new equipment, technology improvements, or even purchased fleets of patrol cars.

The Honolulu Police Department has amassed almost $12 million in 12 years, Hawaii News Now has learned.

"We're going to really have to hold the department's feet to the fire," said Councilman Joey Manahan, chairman of the Budget Committee.

The funds in the account are coming to light at a time when HPD is telling lawmakers that the department just doesn't have the money to fund key programs.

HPD Assistant Chief William Axt told the Honolulu Police Commission on Feb. 1 that the department would have to sacrifice important public safety items because of the $250,000 settlement to pay off embattled Police Chief Louis Kealoha.

"Do we stop testing some sex assault kits? Do we stop buying some Tasers or some body cameras?" asked Axt at the time.

The forfeiture account can be used to purchase items like stun-guns or body cameras, or to reduce the backlog of sex assault kits waiting to be tested, according to the rules of the federal program.

"I'd like to hear from HPD first-hand, to see what are the allowable uses for the funds," says Councilman Brandon Elefante, chairman of the Public Safety Committee.

In 2004, HPD had $6 million in the account. By 2010, the number had ballooned to almost $14 million.

Some of the funds have been spent over the years.

In 2015, HPD spent $1.4 million from the fund on a 2007 McDonald Douglas Helicopter, and $327,674.29 on license plate readers, which help track stolen vehicles.

In 2016, though, the department did not make any major purchases.

In addition, the Department of Treasury and the State Attorney General's Office also have forfeiture programs that are added to HPD's total balance. Altogether, the total adds up to more than $13.5 million.

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