Denver Auditor Timothy O'Brien

Denver Auditor Timothy O'Brien

The Denver Police Department is in “substantial compliance” with the requirements of a federal drug trafficking grant, but there are several record-keeping deficiencies and improper adherence to policies.

Denver Auditor Timothy O’Brien on Thursday released an audit of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas grant, which the city has received since 1996. Denver’s police department administers the grant on behalf of the Front Range Task Force, a multi-jurisdictional effort to disrupt large-scale drug trafficking. There are 28 high-intensity areas nationally, and participating jurisdictions operate on their own behalf, not for the federal government, in conducting law enforcement.

Since 2014, the Denver Police Department has received grants ranging from approximately $600,000 to $900,000 annually. Denver’s police chief is at the head of the task force and signs off on the federal award.

The audit found that the police department has not conducted an inventory of all physical equipment purchased through the grant as required, and there are inaccuracies and missing entries in the tracking system. There was further concern raised that the movement of cash — which the federal government allows for purposes of compensating confidential informants and purchasing evidence — was not timely.

“Our audit also identified a common cause that spans each of the seven issues: Existing policies were in place, but they were not followed,” the report concluded.

The Denver Department of Public Safety agreed with the finding, but argued that adding another employee to review inventory would be “impractical” and “cost prohibitive.” The letter to O’Brien’s office clarified that it had hired an individual for a vacant technology specialist position to assist with inventory software.

Amid the other record-keeping deficiencies, auditors found that the Denver Police Department did not track overtime to the minute, as its union contract requires, and used improper procedures when approving multiple travel expenses.

In learning that the 2018 budget for the task force was submitted late and improperly formatted, auditors cautioned that “national HIDTA policy and budget guidance stresses the importance that the commander follow the appropriate budget format prescribed by the Rocky Mountain HIDTA in its budget guidelines.”

The letter from the Department of Public Safety acknowledged the findings, and added that the federal government had never rejected any of the task force’s budgets for deficient information.

“Through stronger policies and procedures and better adherence to existing grant requirements, the Denver Police Department and the Front Range Task Force will be better equipped to ensure compliance with grant requirements,” said O’Brien.

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