Thursday, October 13, 2005

McLennan County "snuffs" Agriplex task force

Texas' Tulia-style regional drug task forces are dropping like flies.

Most recently, officials decided to "snuff" the Agriplex narcotics task force based in McLennan County (home to Crawford, President Bush's vacation spot; Waco is the county seat) based on word that Byrne grant funding might cease next spring. Earlier this year, the Waco Herald Tribune
called the Agriplex task force a "menace," and reported on why drug task forces carry with them tremendous liability for local taxpayers.

The task force based in Midland also
shut down this month, and several others -- including the one covering Harris and Fort Bend counties -- closed recently. In addition, I received word yesterday that the 216th Judicial District task force based in Kerrville also will close its doors soon.

None of these counties should stop with "snuffing" their task forces. They now need to apply to use the same federal funds for other allowable purposes like drug courts, treatment programs, and strengthened probation services that could let officials draw down new state funds.

In the meantime, somebody cue that old tune from
Queen, "Another one bites the dust."

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Texas is only one state so am I to believe that Drug Task Forces like Tulia and Hearne only exist in Texas. The Bryne Grant is not just in Texas and there are several other national funding mechanisms besides the Bryne Grant to fund drug task forces like DEA, OCDETF, and HIDTA.

I see this problem from a little different perspective.

Local and State police compete for federal funds and the funds which pay for overtime, cars, guns, and other law enforcment perks are awarded to those agencies that have the highest numbers of arrests and seizures.

High numbers of arrests are newsworthy and large numbers of arrests makes the police look like they are effective, cooperating, and busy.

Tulia embodies this law enforcement model and so does every other drug task force accross the United States with only one exception.

The operations of Tulia were closely scrutinzed and that hasn't happened yet to other drug task forces in the other 49 states.

vacarter said...

Congratulations, Scott, on Agriplex being shut down this coming Spring. It is a direct result of your work and I for one know the importance of it. My family was turned upside down by the conviction of a family member in February on completely false information handed to Agriplex by an informant who got a light sentence (4 years) in return for "bringing in others". Unfortunately the U.S. Attorney's office in Waco must have thought that they were an organization with integrity because they take what they hand them unquestionably and run with it. If you are working with a corrupt agency and just take their word on everything that can lead to quite a mess. I hope that the Bryne Grant funds can be put to better use now than funding these agencies and supplying them with new trucks and suburbans! You have contributed to a change that is significant!

Proud Agriplex Agent said...

Hey Scott. If you are going to report this crap, at least get your facts straight. First of all, McLennan County did NOT "snuff" the Agriplex Drug Task Force. If you are able to comprehend english take the time to READ the Waco Tribune Herald, Thursday-Oct 13, 2005 issue. It clearly states "FUNDING SHIFT to SNUFF the Agriplex Drug Task Force". The same article reports a comment from some idiot (oh that's you) making the statement "All these guys do is mop up addicts in minority communities". Hundreds of methamphetamine labs shut down by the Agriplex Drug Task Force speaks for itself. No where does the Waco Tribune Herald call the Agriplex Drug Task Force a "Menace". As far as comments by VACARTER..The Carters were shown evidence on their own property of their family member's involvement in manufacturing methamphetamine. And the "new" vehicles being driven by this task force are a 1995 pickup with 135000 miles and a 1997 suburban that can't go two consecutive months without being placed into the mechanics shop. When your house is broken in to by drug dealers, make sure you call your local task force.....thanks to whiners like you, we won't be there.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@proud Agriplex task force agent: The Governor's office did not say they wouldn't fund your task force, only that they planned to revisit Byrne funding priorities between now and March. Spin it how you want, but the decision to "snuff" the Agriplex task force rested entirely in the hands of local government. I think it was the right one, though.

As for calling Agriplex a "menace," the relevant 5/13 Waco Herald Tribune staff editorial read, "Texas lawmakers have addressed another menace, the regional task forces behind such overzealous enforcement, in this case the seven-county AgriPlex Drug Task Force."

I understand taking pride in your work, but times change, this strategy hasn't worked, and it's time for a new approach.

Anonymous said...

hey,
I would like to address the comment that Task Forces "mop up local addicts". just so you will know Agriplex's last addict had 3/4 of a million dollars worth of ICE, which will now end up in your neighborhood or your childs school.
Dont preach that every Task Force is crooked. Thats is about as small minded as you can get, if we were talking about race you would not cast such a broad net, so dont do it here.
Fact is the public needs all the Drug enforcement they can get.
Joe Q. Public will notice when Agriplex is gone. Who will pay to clean up meth lab sites like the one left behind by VACARTERS family member at 4000-42000 per, and get ready for your robberies, burglaries, thefts and murders to jump up.
oh yeah, VACARTER is whinning about losing a family member, what they dont say is they lost another a couple of years ago for manufacturing. They dont mention that one cause he was as guilty as the this most recent one.
You have no idea of the drug problem in Texas, I challenge you to do your homework, and look at the numbers. look at the cases, arrest, amount of drugs taken from the streets in the Agriplex impact area, and then try to counter that with a whining family, or one incident of a corrupt officer.
VACARTER would rather have their family members out cooking dope as opposed to being safe in jail.
HEY VACARTER
let your family members be accountable for their actions, stop running to their aid and stop trying to buy their innocence.
you and anti-task force proponents have done a dis-service to the great state of TEXAS, and unfortunatley, we will all suffer in the long run.
Scott, stop paraphrasing what you think someone said in some newspaper somewhere.
Dont quote editorials as comments from the news staff. Try being responsible, and let us know how that works out for ya.

Anonymous said...

Proud argriplex agent:

You call someone an “idiot” and then you want the “idiot” to know that when the idiot’s house is predictably broken into by a drug dealer not a burglar, you won’t “…be there.”

Thank God.

Anonymous 2:08pm:

You are obviously a former Agriplex Task Force Agent, a supervisor, or someone who thinks like the proud agriplex agent.

I’ve worked with cops like both of you for years and you either don’t or don’t want to get it.

Vacarter was complaining about a “snitch” that helped your task force do a “roundup”. You know a “roundup” where your task force makes 40 arrests based on the statements of a “snitch” who “snitched” on the other members of a group he probably “organized”.

The “organizer” gets much less time than the other 40 for snitching and he/she gets out early and organizes again.

The “snitch” got the best seat on the bus, talked first, “gave it up” before anyone else and both of you blindly but proudly went along because that’s the way it was when you arrived at the Task Force.

Who are you to change that right? Besides the feds paid large amounts of overtime and all the feds wanted was a fingerprint card of all those arrested so they could report those arrests to fed headquarters.

Drug enforcement never was just about large numbers of lab seizures and large numbers of arrests and if you don’t see the problem in that law enforcement model; both of you are proudly but blindly part of the problem.

Kudo’s for the large ICE seizure but Snitches and drug traffickers have come of age. It’s time drug enforcement and drug enforcement strategies did too.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

anonymous @ 2:08 p.m. wrote: "Dont preach that every Task Force is crooked."

Actually, I don't. I say that many have had serious scandals, which is true. I also say that their accountability lapses stem from structural flaws that plague even the ones without scandals -- they're federally funded, state managaed, locally staffed, and therefore accountable to no one. That, also, is accurate.

Finally, I've looked at enough quarterly reports from Agriplex and elsewhere to know that most of your cases are made over very small amounts. Similarly, most "meth labs" are operated by user-level folks making enough for their own use or a little extra. Very few actually supply significant distribution rings. It's just false to claim you guys don't focus on low-level users.

To both the Agriplex cops: Good luck in your new endeavors.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the only whinning going on is from the soon too be ex agents. And why would someone call a drug task force if there house had been robbed. If I didn't know better I would say that was some kind of threat? Maybe we should think about some anger managment before we go to our new jobs because I don't think your going too get too bully anyone around anymoore.

Thanks

Anonymous said...

Having been around law enforcement for many years I have the right to say that these police officers care about their community and the effects that illegal controlled substances have in that area. I previously worked for a Task Force that was governed by the Texas Department of Public Safety. To say that the concept of Task Forces is outdated or not effective is to announce your ignorance on the issue of narcotics enforcement.

The Task Forces are over seen by the State of Texas and answer to local government. There is accountability! Granted, prior to DPS oversight, the Task Forces were controlled solely by local government; however, even those issues have been addressed. The Task Force concept has been effective and accomplished the intended goal of providing rural areas with the education, equipment and the manpower to effectively enforce Texas State Law as it relates to controlled substances. Task Forces were established to target local drug dealers and that’s what they do. For you liberals that think the elimination of local Task Forces is a good thing, you are part of the problem. Who is going to respond when the little old lady calls the sheriff’s department or a local police department and reports drug activity next door? Neither have the manpower or the resource to spend time investigating this complaint. Drug dealers will pedal their illegal controlled substance with impunity in your community. For people like VACARTER that means you’ll have more family at home for Christmas instead of in jail where they belong. People like VACARTER who don’t instill morals and values in their family members and then complain when they are arrested and convicted are fundamentally the problem. To say that a Task Force is corrupt or imply that they did something wrong by filing a good case with the local District Attorney or the United States Attorney that resulted in the conviction of your family member is idiotic. Your family member is a crook and needs to be in jail. As for informants, there are some good and some bad, but every bit of information given to law enforcement from an informant is corroborated before it’s used in any affidavit or filed in any case. You need to educate yourself on these matters before you get paranoid and start thinking that “Big Brother” is out to get you or your family.

Again, I agree with the Proud Task Force Officer who I think was trying to say that the crime rate would increase without effective narcotics enforcement. I know from experience that most violent crimes, crimes against persons and crimes against property are directly related to drug use and sales. Unfortunately it appears that people will learn the hard way that believe it or not law enforcement as a whole knows how to enforce the law and what it takes to keep their community safe. People that think they know how to do the job better are going to realize eventually that they don’t. So good luck to you liberals, the only thing that you have accomplished is making your community less safe for good, honest people to live.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@ anonymous who writes: "For you liberals that think the elimination of local Task Forces is a good thing, you are part of the problem."

Hmmmmm. President Bush and the drug czar John Walters want to zero out task force funding. Agriplex backers blamed Governor Perry for cutting their funds. Rep. Terry Keel (R-Austin), a former county sheriff, led the legislative effort to restrict task forces. Is it really "liberals" you're mad at? It seems to me mostly conservatives threatening task force budgets.

Anonymous said...

Drug Task Forces

Anyone who thinks that this is a liberal or conservative agenda needs to look at the 10 postings on this blog to see it's neither.

The cops think drug task forces are effective, prevent crime, and provide rural communities with some level of drug enforcement. Not a bad thought.

Then there are those that oppose drug task forces. Opponents think they are the byproduct of a failed strategy and jails are filling up with users and addicts. Also not a bad thought.

I am a former drug task force supervisor and I did it for over 20 years. I think that qualifies me to make a comment which I would consider neither conservative nor liberal.

Cooperation in law enforcement is essential but police should cooperate when it's necessary then return to their departments that have control over them and what they do. The control is for their own protection and it's a day to day reminder they're police officers who protect and serve.

Having said that, Drug Task Forces have absolutely no accountabiity, oversight or control. They aren't effective and the whole concept the way it is today needs to be reformed.

Anyone who disagrees is more proud of what they did than how they did it.

Overall, Drug Task Forces produce large volumes of low level statistics while drug purities, drug availabilities, and drug overdoses continue to rise. That’s a liberal, conservative, and legitimate concern.

It's a national problem not just a Texas or a Byrne Grant problem and other Tulia like scandals are right around the corner.

This monster is statistically driven and the good drivers are riding in the same vehicle as the bad ones.

Read a few DEA press releases and you'll see phrases like "partnerships", "coalitions", "working together", "mutual cooperation". There's a playbook of patented phrases out there and those newspaper phrases are by design.

Folks, those lines and levels in drug law enforcement are currently blurred by the task force concept and that’s what’s feeding that out of control monster.

Anonymous said...

Yes,
Keel pushed for the end of Task Forces, AND didn't he have a family member arrested by one.
Guilty! just like the other family members who were legitimatley caught doing wrong.

Anonymous said...

I think all narcotics officers should be locked in a cell for 24hrs on equal terms with each and every person they have terrorized throughout their career!

Anonymous said...

Current "Task Force" member here. The accountability issue should have been addressed a long time ago. Fact is, we had it easy for many years. Now, however, we follow DPS procedure. "T"s are crossed and "I"s dotted, at the expense of some enforcement, but all in all it keeps officers and offices out of trouble. A good thing, but apparently a bit too late.

Scott, I don't understand your disdain for low-level narcotics enforcement. I'm curious, is it true contempt or merely another whipping post for what I believe is your actual agenda, legalizing controlled substances/decriminalization?

If/when I'm out of the Task Force business, I'm sure I'll still be putting low, mid, and upper level dealers in jail, in some form or another. As long as substances are illegal, and criminals can make a quick buck in their trafficking, people will be harmed and enforcement necessary. The rest of this posting/ranting/arguing is moot.

If "it's" illegal, it needs enforcement. If enforcement isn't needed, legalize "it".

Either way I don't care. There will always be criminals, living by harming others. As such, my chosen profession will exist. I like jailing thieves, rapists and murderers, and don't need drug laws to subsist my existence.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@ Current Task Force Officer: I have no problem prosecuting drug users for crimes they commit outside feeding their addiction, but strongly feel that addiction is a medical, not a criminal justice issue that can't be resolved through law enforcement on any level -- societal or personal. Go after the large criminal organizations smuggling drugs, for example, who have made the border so unsafe, but the unintended consequences of jailing drug users aren't worth it by any measure.

Moreover, much low-level drug enforcement, as in Tulia and Palestine, amounts to spreading money around among small-time addicts trying to buy a miniscule amount so as to charge them as "dealers," when really they're just lowly addicts. In those instances, low-level drug enforcement actually creates more crime than it solves, encouraging a higher level of criminal activity, in many cases, than drug users would otherwise engage in.

Crimes committed by drug users are a local problem that should be paid for by local taxpayers. Federal dollars shouldn't have anything to do with it, IMO. Best,

Anonymous said...

One last word about Drug Task Forces, Federal Funding, Asset Forfeiture and the value of any kind of drug arrests.

Federal Funding

Law enforcement agencies don't get federal funds for arresting large numbers of burglars, murderers, and thieves but they do for drug arrests. Drug arrests of any kind so you can understand why police departments use drug arrests to finance and subsidize their entire departments.

Asset Forfeiture

Law enforcement agencies receive forfeited drug proceeds for drug law enforcement.

This is income by other names and it's the only other source of income for the police besides court fines and taxes.

So imagine being a police chief and deciding whether he/she wants 80% of one million in drug proceeds in addition to small amounts of court fines and taxes.

The value of arresting a murderer, a thief, and a robber is socially evident. The value of a drug arrest is it has value.

Change that and the whole process will change itself.

Anonymous said...

Why do Task Force Officers act like someone who enjoys smoking Marijuana or partakes in a recreational 'line' of cocaine or speed is gonna run out into schools and victimize children? Fear or stupidity?
Why would a dope dealer steal a $50 T.V. when he has thousands of dollars worth of dope to sell? That line of BS is so old school. How many innocent people must be victimized and incarcerated before people wake up and see the light. Its all about fear and oppression...nothing more. Some have the power, and will stop at nothing to keep it. The same people who claim all this self righteousness speed in their cars, cheat on their taxes, are unfaithful to spouses, employ illegal tactics and a myriad of other 'real' moral crimes. They are nothing more than power hungry hypocrits! The only way they can exist in this world is by hiding behind drug laws that sheild them from the persecution they deserve.
At least for some of us life is real....we dont have to pretend to be peoples friends, say we love and care or lead people into doing things they would otherwise not!! I never met a Narc that didnt smoke marijuana, some even do speed....and like it, obviously! If its such a great evil why do you do it? To put people in jail that do the same thing you do? If its so terrible and dangerous, why? Would you drink rat poison if other people did it? Just to lock them up? I think not. You're whole basis for existance is false and useless...nothing but modern day oppressors. I guess you couldn't hold a real job or be a real person so you just do the best you can. How do you split up the money, property and dope you seize? I hope you enjoy it, one day it will end!
Quit being fake, go get a real job and get over yourself. You are no better than a homeless person in a ditch or worse than a king in a manson...deal with it and move-on!
I forgive you...you should pray God does.

R.I.P Agriplex----Hope you enjoy cleaning toilets in the jail and being meter maids.

Anonymous said...

Current Task Force Officer again,

Scott, you make a good point regarding low level enforcement and targeting small time users as dealers. The problem, as I see it, is that these users can sometimes create large problems for cities and counties, and narcotics enforcement is the only viable resource to deal with them.

Example: In 1997 I was involved in a narcotics enforcement effort in Marlin, Texas. At the time, there was a three block area where crime was almost constantly being commited...robberies, assaults, and narcotics distribution, low and mid level. The area was unsafe, and enforcing narcotics laws was the easiest way to clean up the area.

The end result? A bunch of folks went to jail for selling drugs to undercover officers. I honestly don't know if it made Marlin a safer place...that's a question best answered by a resident. But without that narcotics enforcement, I don't believe anything could have or would have been done.

So, the paradigm shifts. No more narcotics enforcement...next comes the targeting of "continuing criminal enterprises". Sounds great for the politicians, but in the end I don't think much will change other than accountability.

Anonymous said...

listen!
before you start to bust one off, Agriplex and other Narcotic Detectives across the state will continue to put dopers in jail. All that is happening now is Task Forces are losing their unit's name.
so. dont submerge yourself in that purple haze just yet, cause if you do, we will be there. not cleaning toilets, not writing tickets. we will be doing exactly what we have been doing for years, just with a different name.
that having been said,
to all my brothers and sister narcs across the state. KEEP LOCKING 'EM UP.
and may GOD bless you all!!

Anonymous said...

I just want to state my opinion, and that's just what it is my opinion. The Drug Task Forces need to be "snuffed", because the "war on drugs" is a hopeless cause. The government spends way to much time and money on tring to catch drug dealers and users, when they need to be spending this extra time and money tracking down PHETAPHILES, and COLD BLOODED KILLERS. Oh, I know there is no "reward money" to collect if a killer is caught. Whereas if they make a drug bust there is a huge "payoff" at times depending on how big of an operation it was. I think that task force is no better than the average drug dealer because they use this "seized money" to help fund it's program by purchasing equipment and so forth. If it weren't for the money that is involved in drugs, then the government and police departments would not be so hell bent on fighting the drug issue, and leave people alone. But, like I said this is only my opinion in which I am entitled to.

Anonymous said...

"The cynicism and hippocracy displayed by corrupt officials, pretending to serve the public good, but in fact furthing their own private gain, probably pose a greater danger to this country then all the drug traffikers combined. Corrupt leaders not only betray their constituents, but also contribute to a moral decay in America society that many view as the forerunner of economic, political and social disaster" a quote from a Judge.

Anonymous said...

Dear Moron,
the context of that quote was to liken the drug traffickers to corrupt politicians.
in fact saying that as bad as drug runners are that bad public officials are worse.
point in case they spun the byrne to include their personal agendas, and not that which was at the best interest of the general and logical population.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@ the last anonymous: All political perspectives are welcome here, but alas comments calling others "morons" are not - if the task force cops and I can figure out how to be civil to each other, I'd hope commenters here could do so as well. Thanks,

Anonymous said...

Still busting the drug dealers and users (both still a violation of State and Federal laws) and putting them behind bars. It is still being done without Federal funds......am I still corrupt????? OH, I never was......