Dallas police get OK for federal bank record access
The green light comes as the department is finalizing its new financial investigations seizure team targeting drug traffickers' assets
By Tristan Hallman
The Dallas Morning News
DALLAS — Dallas police will soon have access to a federal database of suspicious bank transactions after the City Council gave the go-ahead Wednesday.
Council members approved the measure 13-2 after a debate over privacy concerns. Only council members Lee Kleinman and Philip Kingston opposed the measure.
The green light comes as the department is finalizing its new financial investigations seizure team targeting drug traffickers' assets.
Deputy Chief Christina Smith, who oversees the narcotics division, said the database only reports general information about suspicious activity that is reported by law. Detectives will already have to have probable cause on a case to look up any of the general information about transactions, and will then have to get a subpoena from a judge to get the full details.
Police currently have to request the information from the database.
"Rather than wait weeks or months to get our requests returned to us, we will have it at our fingertips," Smith said.
The database contains basic information about bank transactions exceeding $10,000, which are already reported under the Bank Secrecy Act. It is run by the Treasury Department, so there is no cost to the city.
But council member Kingston said he worries that the federal government is too untrustworthy on data gathering right now.
"I'm mystified that there is not more outrage about privacy," he said.
He said he wanted police to "not work with the federal government when they can't assure us that the information that they're giving us is legally obtained."
Chief David Brown assured that police would go through all the legal steps required and that there are adequate safeguards in place. And other council members dismissed the worries of Kingston and Kleinman.
"If you can take the dope houses down in my neighborhood yesterday, please, take them down," Vonciel Jones Hill said.
Copyright 2014 The Dallas Morning News