Monday, January 31, 2005

Report: Unsupervised drunks staff New Hampshire drug task force

Incidents in Tulia, Hearne and elsewhere have given drug task forces in Texas a bad name, but this type of task force, funded by the federal Byrne grant program, has had troubles all over the country.

In New Hampshire, a single Byrne-funded task force is operated statewide out of the state Attorney General's office. A report released last week found that two widely publicized assault incidents last year were caused by officers with little oversight who got into altercations after drinking on the job. No charges will be filed, but the report cites bigger problems than just the two fights.

"The credibility of the entire concept of undercover operations by police in New Hampshire is at stake," [Rockingham County Attorney Jim] Reams writes. "I cannot stress how crucial the need is for reform of the Drug Task Force."

Officers drinking on the job, even in the drug task force headquarters, appear to be one of the biggest concerns. The fights last year occurred after an undercover officer complained about his backups drinking while monitoring him making drug buys. The officers who were allegedly drinking denied the charges and accused the undercover of being a "rat," which started the public brawl. The report states:

* It is widely believed that DTF members have consumed alcohol in the Dover office of the DTF, which is tantamount to drinking in their respective police stations."

* It is widely believed that DTF members and supervisors are reported to have drunk alcoholic beverages while on duty and serving in a ‘backup’ capacity to other DTF officers working undercover."

Apparently, local chiefs no longer support the task force or want to assign their officers there. (The Portsmouth, NH PD pulled out of the task force last year.)

* "The failure ... to supervise the DTF has resulted in a ‘poisoned’ relationship between the DTF and other local police chiefs because the chiefs have no confidence that the future problems will be addressed or resolved by the supervisors."

* "There is clearly a need for comprehensive policies and procedures for the supervision of the DTF in order to restore the chiefs’ confidence in the DTF and their willingness to assign officers to the DTF." ...

"Communication between the DTF and local chiefs, at least on the Seacoast, can not get much worse. After some or all of the steps outlined are implemented, a meeting has to be scheduled to ‘clear the air’ and get these law enforcement agencies back on the same track."

The Portsmouth Herald said it was "tempting" to advocate eliminating the task force, but instead advocated trying to reform it. I wonder if they would be even more tempted if they knew the problems facing their own task force were common in other states wherever Byrne grants fund them?

The Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee recommended abolishing Texas' drug task force system in its Interim report released in December.

UPDATE: The Portsmouth Herald reported Feb. 1 that two more New Hampshire police departments have pulled their officers from that state's Byrne-grant funded drug task force over concerns about misconduct.


Anonymous said...

why don't you write the truth about what was in the Rockingham County Report in regards to the NH Drug Task Force. It's obvious that you report a bias one-sided version of what really happened...which is quite far from the truth.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

What truth is that, oh highly credible anonymous commenter? What I quoted is also pretty much what the NH media took from the episode, too: that the NH task force was basically filled with a bunch of poorly managed keystone cops. What truth would you prefer?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the papers always report open minded non-bias information....give me a f'n break!! Read between the lines you loser, the county attorney should be investigated for spending thousands of dollars of the tax payers money to investigate nothing more than a shoving match. They obviously tried like hell to indict these guys, but bottom line, there wasn't a crime committed that was worthy of indictment. Which is sad, because we all know that you can pretty much indict a ham sandwich if you wanted too!! Get a life.

Fckthe50 said...

There is never a crime committed when it comes to government agencies "anonymous." The dtf, atf,fbi, pd's and other oh so lawfully correct agencies do nothing more than snap there fingers or sign a check to solve there problems. But you can only pay off so many mouths before a greedy one starts taking. Isn't that right officer "anonymous?" ;)