According to the Texarkana Gazette ("Local police may soon be wrangling I-30 drug smugglers," 1-22), Governor Perry is using grant money from the Department of Homeland Security to search for terrorists in Texarkana. The funds will pay for a "Border Security Enhancement Operation."
Huh?! I was unaware until now there was a problem policing the border to ARKANSAS! (If anything, I'd have suggested militarizing the border with the Okies. The Red River should be a defensible position, one would think - perhaps a good place for a wall?)
The real purpose of the grant, though, is to fund overtime for a drug interdiction unit to work the highways trolling for asset forfeiture income, not "border security" or "terrorism." Reported the Gazette:
I'm no fan of these highway interdiction units - they're too income-focused and waste police resources conducting countless unnecessary "consent searches," mostly of innocent people, that serve little public safety purpose. The results are essentially random and the VAST majority of searches at drug interdiction stops don't come up with any contraband.
Some Texarkana, Texas, police officers may soon be deployed to help track down and arrest possible terrorists as well as drug smugglers along Interstate 30 and U.S. Highway 59.
During their regular meeting at 7 tonight, the Texas-side City Council will consider contracting with the Department of Public Safety to deploy some municipal officers in a Border Security Enhancement Operations Project known as “Operation Wrangle.”
The interlocal cooperation agreement will allow city police to patrol and work traffic enforcement, on an overtime basis, along I-30 and U.S. Highway 59 to target illegal drug smugglers and terrorists, according to city records.
The agreement further calls for the DPS to reimburse the city up to $43,000 for all overtime paid as well as mileage and for vehicle use—money that will come from Department of Homeland Security grants administered through the DPS and the governor’s Division of Emergency Management.The stateside enforcement program started last week and will last through Aug. 31.
In 2004 I authored a public policy report on behalf of Texas ACLU analyzing drug interdiction units at Texas drug task forces (pdf). As I wrote then:
Through open records requests and several months of research, the ACLU of Texas has learned that the overwhelming majority of RNTF interdiction efforts amount to fishing expeditions that contribute little to traffic safety. Instead, interdiction permits task force officers to pull over and search thousands of innocent Texans each year as well as to seize vehicles, cash, and other forms of personal property. Furthermore, records documenting RNTF interdiction activities reveal patterns of racial disparity in how frequently officers search vehicles.At some task forces, more than 99% of all traffic stops made by drug interdiction units did not result in traffic tickets - drivers were let off with warnings for whatever pretext the officer used for the stop. But at those stops, our research found that the focus on drug interdiction caused officers to conduct MANY more so-called consent searches than do regular police on traffic duty.
I considered the Governor's decision to de-fund Texas' regional drug task force system a big first step toward imposing accountability on the use of federal grant funds. This seems like a step backward.
I guess it's true that history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce. Now we're "securing the border" with Arkansas "from terrorists." Oh, and btw, trolling for drug dealers on the highways just like they did under the old, failed task force model. This must be the farce part.
UPDATE: More on "Operation Wrangler" from South Texas Chisme and the Houston Chronicle.