Sunday, November 14, 2004

Spend Byrne Grant Money on Other Good Stuff

A judge from East Texas replied thusly via email to my post below about drug task forces:

"While I am against task forces generally because of the severe lack of supervision and the questionable tactics that I've observed, I am not for turning down Texas' share of Byrne grant funds. Those funds need to be used for treatment centers and for drug courts to try the major offenders, not these little eight-ball cases."

Thanks, Judge. I agree completely. Proposals by Rep. Terry Keel and others at the Legislature to abolish the task forces would have simply forbidden spending money on them. But Texas would still get Byrne grant money, and could spend it on things local government really needs like drug treatment, probation services, specialized domestic violence units, and juvenile justice resources. LULAC proposed shifting Byrne grant money to those types of services in their recent report.

(For a list of other programs for which local governments can apply for Byrne grant money in lieu of drug task forces, see page 5 of the May 2004 report, Flawed Enforcement, authored by yours truly on behalf of ACLU of Texas.)

1 comment:

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Thanks, Narcotics, I've passed your note along to the judge. If I may say so, though, your comments appear, to use the word recently popularized by Albert Gonzalez regarding the Geneva Conventions, a bit "quaint." It's not just one or two "bad apples," now, but many. See page 5 of this report and page 13 of this one for, between them, a partial list. (I know the judge is well aware of all those cases; were you?) Neither the judge nor I live in a county that any longer has a Byrne task force, so we couldn't ask our local commander. (In my case, Travis County's "Capital-Area" task force folded after a couple of civilians and one sheriff's deputy were killed in separate blown police raids.)Today, huge swaths of the state don't get Byrne grant money because they don't have task forces, and the ones remaining are imploding right and left.

Meanwhile, everybody, apparently, but the narcotics cops themselves are starting to understand that the state can't afford the failed strategy of busting low level drug users with no end in sight.

Rather than "the impact [the judge's] comments could make," if I were you I'd blame the U.S. Congress, which just slashed Byrne grants by 24%. It could have been worse. George Bush proposed abolishing the program entirely in each of his first four presidential budgets despite intense opposition. I understand he plans to spend the next four years spending his political capital to enact his agenda. Good luck.;-)

Thanks for the comment, though, seriously. Come back and visit anytime.