Given that massive, recent state investment, I was surprised that no one in the mainstream media picked up on the fact that one of those Sheriffs recently was indicted and accused of working in cahoots with the Mexican Gulf Cartel(!), making him the second border Sheriff during Perry's tenure to face charges for assisting Mexican drug gangs, along with many other law enforcement agents.
Though the MSM hasn't yet linked Sheriff Guerra's indiscretions to his border security work or probed how he spent his grant money, I've already wondered how the Governor could justify extending this expensive pork program now that it turns out some of the money went to a Gulf Cartel operative. The cost is even harder to justify since there's no evidence it had any effect on border crime.
Clearly, though, the Governor thinks that giving millions in state border security money to an alleged Gulf Cartel flunky won't hurt his chances of re-upping the program, particularly if he sweetens the pot with grants for big-city PDs as well, reported the San Antonio Business Journal ("Gov. Perry allocates funds to help SAPD fight gangs," Oct. 29):
As part of his anti-gang strategy, Perry says he plans to ask the 2009 Texas Legislature for $110 million in sustained border security funding and another $24 million to combat transnational gang activity across the state.As he previously did with funding for border sheriffs, Gov. Perry is using federal Byrne grant funds to initiate a small amount of funding to local police on his own authority. (This pot of money shrank significantly in recent years thanks to pressure by the Bush Administration; it once funded Texas' network of drug task forces before they were brought down by corruption scandals in Tulia, Hearne, and elsewhere.) Again from the SA Business Journal:
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has allocated nearly $560,000 to help the San Antonio Police Department target transnational gang activity.
The funding will come from the federal Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program and will be distributed by the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division.
Perry will allocate a total of $4 million in Criminal Justice Division grant money to Arlington, Austin, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Garland, Houston, Irving, Laredo, McAllen and San Antonio. The funds will be used as overtime pay for officers who patrol hot spots of gang activity.
Is it just me, or is this is an odd shift in focus? The "gang" problems in San Antonio, for example, are scarcely (at least directly) related to "transnational" drug gangs like the Gulf Cartel who Perry's border security initiative targeted. And they're certainly not affiliated with "terrorists," which is how he originally sold the program. To hear the Governor's latest statement, it sounds more like he intends the money to simply supplement regular police patrols:
“No one has a better grasp of the situation on the ground than the peace officers who patrol our neighborhoods and tackle the challenges of law enforcement every day,” Perry says. “These officers are the key to our fight against transnational gangs, and Texas is committed to ensuring that they are well equipped to combat these organizations.”
Governor Perry is basically asking the Texas Legislature to give him his own version of President Bill Clinton's COPS program, which claimed to put 100,000 new local officers on the street nationwide. Indeed, Perry's proposal suffers from the identical failure as Clinton's COPS inititive: It wasn't the feds' job to fund local police officers, and it's not state government's, either.
I didn't like Governor Perry's border security plan because it focused on maximizing pork and minimizing accountability. But at least I understand that border security is a state-level priority and requires a statewide strategy and response. I do NOT think it's state government's role to pay for overtime for patrol officers at local, municipal police departments. Once they become dependent on state funding, it'll be nigh-on impossible to ever get them off the state teat.
MORE: WOAI Radio has more from Perry's comments, including:
Perry cited the threat from Mexico's Gulf drug cartel and criminal gangs like Barrio Azteca, MS-13, and the Mexican Mafia.
"The threat that is posed by these trans national gangs is very very real," Perry said. "These people don't hesitate to kill, to kidnap, to torture. as a means of eliminating their criminal competition, or, for that matter, terrorizing citizens into silence. Mexican drug cartels are using stolen vehicles, weapons, there is human cargo involved here."
Perry's initiative comes as the FBI in San Antonio issued what it calls a 'Joint Assessment Bulletin' to law enforcement agencies statewide, warning that the Gulf Cartel is attempting of gain control of major drug trafficking routes through Texas, including Interstate 35.
"We are talking about a very specific group called Los Zetas, which are a paramilitary drug trafficking group operating in Mexico, which have been known to conduct some activity in the United States," Special Agent Erik Vasys told 1200 WOAI's Michael Board today.
Los Zetas are mainly former Mexican Army special forces soldiers, many of whom have been trained by the United States, who are hired as 'enforcers' for the Gulf and Sinaloa drug cartels in northern Mexico.
Deputy U.S. Marshal James Benjamin in San Antonio says the incident that prompted the warning is the arrest of a major drug gang commander earlier this week near Tijuana.
"There will be some jockeying as to who will be in charge of that cartel, and we expect some renewed violence," Benjamin said.
Vasys says there is no specific threat from the Zetas.
"Law enforcement regularly receives raw intelligence, information from a variety of sources, which is put out in bulletin form to alert law enforcement to trends that they may see on a daily basis."
Vasys said Los Zetas are a 'significant problem in Mexico' and have 'the potential to pose a significant problem to law enforcement in Texas.'
Perry says his program is aimed at 'dismantling' Mexican gang activity in Texas.
I'll give the Governor this much credit: I'm glad he's finally started talking publicly about the biggest public safety threat on the southern border as opposed to demagoguing in campaign commercials about "terrorism," but I don't think that expanding a program with poor results to more jurisdictions is really the way to go.