Thursday, February 17, 2005

Left unconsidered about drug task forces

National Public Radio's All Things Considered failed to consider one side of the story in their piece today on President Bush's proposed cuts to the federal Byrne grant program. They gave voice to complaints by Democrats and law-enforcement pork recipients decrying the cuts to Tulia-style drug task forces as devastating to the drug war, but didn't quote civil rights activists and drug policy reformers who want the unaccountable pseudo-entities gone.

Also left unconsidered was the notion that, given these task forces' egregious record, the President's proposed budget cut to this law enforcment "entitlement" program might actually be a good thing. Grits has considered that possibility, and embraced it. (For all you liberals who can't stomach the idea President Bush might have proposed a good budget cut: Get over it. Even a stopped clock is right twice per day.)

We've seen dozens of scandals here in Texas involving drug task forces, starting with the case in Tulia, though they're not just a Texas problem. It turns out they aren't very effective. The Texas Department of Safety was told to rein them in back in 2002, but they were never given the needed authority, and DPS management of the task force system has been a mess from the start. As the public became aware of their accountability and liability problems, support for drug task forces generally has been dwindling in Texas.

It's not just President Bush, though, who wants drug task forces de-funded.
The Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee wants to abolish the drug task force system, according to the unanimous recommendation in its December report. Texas has identified a variety of critical needs that the same grant money could be spent on.

I hope they do just that.

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