The NYPD doesn’t have a system in place to back up digital records of millions in seized funds.
The revelation came in a Manhattan courtroom this week, as a city attorney explained limitations of the NYPD’s Property and Evidence Tracking System, according to Courthouse News.
“That’s insane,” said Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Arlene Bluth from the bench upon learning of the system’s lack of a backup.
The discovery came after the nonprofit group Bronx Defenders requested access to the city’s forfeiture records. But city attorney Neil Giovanatti argued they couldn’t fulfill the request because of technical issues extracting the information from the forfeiture database. That’s when Giovanatti revealed that there was no backup of the Property and Evidence Tracking System.
According to records, the NYPD seized more than $6 million in 2013, meaning the city had around $68 million in forfeited cash — all of it detailed and recorded in a system that’s a power outage away from vanishing.
“Do you want the Daily News to be reporting that you have no copy of the data?” Bluth asked Giovanatti.
“That deserves an exposé in the New York Times,” she later said.
Perhaps more troubling is the limitations of the system relative to the cost of its implementation. The city paid technology company Capgemini $25.5 million in 2009 to set up the database.
In addition to the $68 million seized by the NYPD, a Department of Justice audit found the city had received another $14 million in 2014 through the Equitable Sharing Program. The program allows law enforcement to sidestep local restrictions on forfeiture by allowing the federal government to “adopt” the seized property, take a cut of the proceeds, and then give back the rest.
The controversial program, which was rolled back by the Obama administration in 2015, was recently reinstated by the Trump administration.
Last month, a report from the DOJ detailed how law enforcement misused seized funds by spending more than $110,000 on catering.