CONYERS -- Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown has said he opposes legislation that would take control of seized and forfeited assets away from law enforcement agencies that seize them and give that control to the commissioners in the county where the property was seized. Commissioners would determine what law enforcement purposes were appropriate for the seized assets.
"I support the Georgia Sheriff's Association . We know best as to how to appropriate those funds. We've had no issues between the Board of Commissioners and ourselves concerning the use of those funds," he said.
Also, Rockdale County Sheriff Eric Levett came out against the legislation.
"I am joining other sheriffs and the Georgia Sheriffs' Association in opposing House Bill 1," Levett said in a statement. "The ability to seize unlawfully obtained money and assets is a great tool in combating criminal activity. House Bill 1 would change the seizure process by taking away my discretion of how the seized property may be used to further reduce crime in Rockdale County."
Terry Norris, executive director of the Georgia Sheriffs' Association, said the legislation is "vigorously opposed by the sheriffs of Georgia."
"It effectively negates any need to seize the ill-gotten assets of hoodlums," he said.
Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills, president of the Sheriffs' Association, wrote in a message on the Putnam Sheriff's Office website that a law enforcement agency's ability to seize property and cash in drug cases is one of the "most effective and valuable" tools to combat illicit drug activity.
"These laws have enabled us, after judicial processes are completed, to take the cars, cash and property of criminals," wrote Sills. "This, in the end, seems to be the only thing that really hurts them."
Sills points out that seized property and cash save taxpayers money and provide greater assets for crime-fighting to the law enforcement agencies.
"I can categorically say that the provisions of this bill will only benefit criminals and the lawyers who represent them," Sills wrote. " ... If it is passed, it will literally demoralize the law enforcement community to a point where we will see little public benefit in enforcing the law when it comes to drug dealers and other criminal entrepreneurs."
Newton Citizen News Editor Barbara Knowles contributed to this story.