Denver Auditor Timothy O'Brien

Denver Auditor Timothy O'Brien

Denver police improved accountability for cash used to pay for confidential information and evidence, but moved backward on tracking its expensive electronic equipment, according to a  report from Denver auditor Timothy O’Brien.

The auditor’s office examined the police department’s management of federal grant funds in 2020, according to a news release. As a result of that audit, the office recommended the police department improve inventory tracking practices.

The federal government created High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas to coordinate federal, state and local efforts against large-scale drug trafficking. The Denver Police Department heads the anti-drug Front Range Task Force, which covers Denver, Adams, Arapahoe, Jefferson and Douglas Counties. as part of the Rocky Mountain region. Auditors found significant portions of the Denver department’s equipment purchased with the grant funds, such as computers and surveillance equipment, are susceptible to theft or loss.

The department did improve its compliance with the grant budget reporting deadline and made sure managers request reimbursement only for appropriate spending, the news release says.

But a change in how the agency tracks equipment bought with grant money caused trouble, auditors contend.

A follow-up audit found that officials decided to only track items worth more than $5,000, which reduced their inventory list from 393 in 2020 to just three in 2021, according to the news release. The Office of National Drug Control Policy requires the police department to track assets worth more than $5,000 purchased with grant funds, and may track other items that at high risk of theft or loss.

“As of our follow-up, the police department’s inventory tracking efforts are less now than they were during our initial audit,” the audit found. “The risks identified in the audit not only remain but are exacerbated.”

The auditor’s follow-up report found the police department did create a twice-a-year reconciliation process to improve tracking of funds for confidential information and evidence, and also found the department improved accountability for returning unused cash earmarked for confidential information and evidence. But the auditor’s office recommended a more stringent tracking process, such as once a month. The police department should have regular, written practices for independent tracking of the cash it uses for this information, says the release.

The audit has also found issues with how the police department tracks overtime. Only 9% of paid overtime submissions in the past year were recorded to the minute, as required by the department’s collective bargaining agreement, and officers instead tend to round their overtime up to the nearest quarter or half hour. This could result in the police department overpaying for overtime, according to the release.

In a statement Friday afternoon to The Denver Gazette, a spokesperson said the police department "appreciates the recommendations, will continue evaluating the tracking and reporting processes for this grant program, and is committed to implementing the remaining recommendations."