Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway, is under fire for the recent purchase of a new 2018 Dodge Charger for his department. No, it’s not the Dodge Charger Pursuit that law enforcement agencies almost always purchase for their department; instead its the 707 horsepower SRT HELLCAT model.
The Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department (which is located in the suburban Atlanta area), purchased the vehicle recently with money seized from federal drug money. However when the request for the vehicle was put forth as a request for the Sheriff’s Department to the county administrator, the request was for a 2018 Dodge Charger (model was not stated in the memo) for “covert operations and uncover use”. That isn’t what the public seems to think about the purchase.
Instead of using the vehicle for uncover operations, the 2018 Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT is being used to shuttle Sheriff Conway back and forth to work. The department is also saying that the vehicle will be used to provide a draw for the non-profit Beat the Heat program. That’s where law enforcement warns young people about the dangers of drag racing and distracted driving, sometimes racing the public in a “safe, controlled environment.”
In a letter sent to the Sheriff Conway last week, the US Department of Justice pointed out seized drug money cannot be used for “extravagant expenditures” and law enforcement should spend those funds without creating “the appearance of fraud, waste and abuse.” The feds want their $69,258 returned by the end of this month.
The Sheriff Department has yet to cut a check back to the Department of Justice.
According to Fox 5 Atlanta, the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department’s annual budget is $92 million. Last year, the department says $2,907,276.86 in unused money was returned to the general fund.
Gwinnett County Administrator Glenn Stephens issued this statement:
“Staff is working with the Sheriff’s Office to respond to the Department of Justice regarding the vehicle purchase. We are committed to resolving the matter quickly and will be adding review points in our process for equipment purchased with asset forfeiture funds to make sure we comply with guidelines set forth by the Department of Justice. ”