Sheriff’s statement on narcotics task force future

The following letter was read into the record at the Board of Supervisor’s meeting on March 18th 2013 by Sheriff John Drum:

I am here today to talk with you about the La Paz County Task Force. When La Paz County broke away from Yuma in 1983, we didn’t have a Narcotics Task Force. Our officers handled drug cases as they occurred and the only drug enforcement we had within our County was coordinated by the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

Recognizing that we needed to be more than “reactive”, the La Paz County Narcotics Task Force was established. It was hosted by the Sheriff’s Office and consisted of the Sheriff’s Office, AZ DPS, Parker Police and the CRIT Police Department.

During that time, the Task Force was funded by a grant with the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission (ACJC). This grant paid for four Detective’s salaries (for a total of $140,000 per year) and it allowed the local agencies to dedicate officers to a group that could focus on narcotic activity and organized crime.

As the County grew, so did the need for a more aggressive approach to fighting drug sales and trafficking. In 2002, the La Paz County Task Force became part of the HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas) initiative and added the Quartzsite Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration. HIDTA is a nationwide initiative that provided the Unit with $110,000 per year and the intelligence/assistance needed to keep up with the new trends observed coming out of the larger cities and Mexico.

By 2009, the Task Force, which was commanded and controlled by the La Paz County Sheriff’s Office, and was receiving approximately $250,000 a year in grants, we had a successful I.G.A. with the Colorado River Indian Tribes and we were recognized by the President of the United States for our pro-active approach to dismantling drug trafficking organizations within the C.R.I.T. reservation. We also were averaging 190 major felony cases per year and the communities/towns across La Paz County noticed a significant decrease in the amount of “local drug dealers” within our communities.

In July of 2010, the Sheriff’s Department relinquished command of the Narcotics Task Force. Since that time, we have noticed a significant decrease in drug enforcement across the County, we lost the I.G.A. with the Colorado River Indian Tribes, we have lost both the ACJC and the HIDTA grants totaling in $250,000 per year and there were a total of only 56 cases investigated in 2012.

Being a retired Law Enforcement officer (Narcotics Detective), I know what it takes to re-build and sustain the Narcotics Task Force. It is my intention to re-establish command and control of unit so we can recover the grants and begin working with other agencies to bring us back to where we need to be.

There is a lot of speculation around the community that it is my intention to dismantle the Task Force to build my own unit. That is not entirely true; my plan is to put together an effective Task Force that stays focused on the overall objective without self-interest and politics getting in the way. If the Parker Police Department and the Quartzsite Police Department would like to join us, I would like the local agencies to come together with C.R.I.T., the Department of Public Safety, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Border Patrol so we can share personnel, resources, and funding to create a Task Force that everyone in La Paz County can be proud of.

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