DATE: February 21, 2002
FROM: Melissa Ashburn, Legal Consultant
RE: Questions concerning use of drug forfeiture funds
You have requested a legal opinion concerning 2 questions asked by your Police Department: whether 1% of the money held in the drug fund may be paid to the Police Chiefs Association as a contribution; whether funds may be used for police training, and, if so, what type of training? As I have advised you verbally, the contribution to the Chiefs Association is not a legal use of such funds. Although money from the drug fund may be used for training, the training must relate to the drug enforcement program of the department.
T.C.A. § 39-17-420 mandates that funds derived from fines and forfeitures in drug cases:
may be used only for the following purposes:
(A) Local drug enforcement program;
(B) Local drug education program;
(C) Local drug treatment program; and
(D) Nonrecurring general law enforcement expenditures.
This provision has been interpreted as allowing the expenditure of money from drug funds for officer tuition fees for training programs which are part of the agency’s drug enforcement program. Tenn. Op. Atty. Gen. 90-98. Your City should therefore only use money in the drug fund to pay for training directly related to the drug enforcement program.
The “nonrecurring general law enforcement expenditures” is interpreted by the Tennessee Division of Municipal Audit as including the purchases of automobiles, computers, radios and body armor. The Division has determined that the phrase does not include expenditures for repairs or maintenance, salaries for general law enforcement officers, uniforms or ammunition.
I do not believe the phrase “nonrecurring general law enforcement expenditures” can include payment of a contribution to the Chiefs Association. I have not found any opinion or regulation which directly addresses such a use of funds. When making expenditures from the drug fund, however, it is always best to err on the side of caution, and make only those expenditures which are expressly allowed. For that reason, I would advise your City not to make the contribution from the drug fund.
I hope this information is helpful. Please let me know if the department needs anything further on this inquiry.