Monday, February 07, 2005

NH Catfight Shows Why Drug Task Forces Must Go

The fingerpointing is now underway between the New Hampshire Attorney General and member agencies of their statewide drug task force after revelations that officers provided backup on undercover missions while intoxicated and twice physically attacked police officers who they thought would rat them out for drinking. Now, the Attorney General is circling the wagons, some agencies are leaving, and even the task force's defenders admit its problems loom large.

I can't find a copy of the report by Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams posted anywhere online, but if anyone finds it I'd appreciate a shout out. There's a few Texans I know who'd sure like to see it.

Even without the full report, anyone who thinks strengthening Texas' task force system's central command under the Department of Public Safety (DPS) will solve their accountability problems should look closely at the clips linked above about what happened in New Hampshire. In that much more manageably sized state, the Attorney General controlled a single drug task force statewide working out of just four satellite offices, in theory operating as a cohesive unit. But the combination of federal funding, state management and local staffing simply proved unaccountable in practice.

By contrast, the scale of Texas' management problem and the depth of existing snafus that need fixing would make reining in task forces here more difficult by many orders of magnitude compared to New Hampshire, even if DPS were given full control, which they don't have by any stretch. Plus, let's face it, whether it's fair or not, the public won't receive a huge confidence boost from promises that DPS will henceforth rigorously concern itself with strict management practices or attention to constitutional niceties. The drug task force system has brought discredit to everyone involved with it. It's time for a new approach.

This is another one of those pseudo-police-agencies funded by the federal Byrne grant program for which President Bush proposed 90% budget cuts in the next fiscal year. Make me philosopher king, and I'd prefer that money be spent on drug courts or treatment-based alternatives to incarceration, but Texas' leaders have never put those options on the table. So if drug task forces can't get their act together any better than in Texas, or New Hampshire, or California, or, hell, really all over, then slashing their budgets is alright by me. They're causing more problems than they're solving.


Anonymous said...

Grits for breakfast, you asked for a copy of the report which means that you have not read the report by County Attorney Jim Reams, which is to say that you have absolutely no information to go on other than what you read in the papers. We all know how reliable they are..yeah right. Now the good news is that Drug task forces are out there doing an incredible job curbing the use and sale of illegal narcotics in the United States. Countless murderers, and drug dealers have been taken off of the streets, and numerous innocent lives spared the devastating effects of drugs,a nd their related crimes. To use one isolated incident as a soapbox for your anti government anti Texas DPS views is as shortminded as you are. these officers are volunteers who must blend into the crowd they are hunting, often not seeing their families,and always wondering if they will be killed or victimized at a moment's notice...why? because they are professionals and they care about their country and fellow man. Do you have the sack to go into a darkened back alley by yourself and no weapon to buy some drugs from a cracked out psycho with a handgun and taste for blood and drugs, in order to get him off the street? No I bet you dont you presume to know what these dedicated officers are up to, and trust me until you walk a mile in their shoes, save the rhetoric. Texas has much in common with New Hampshire in that we do not tolerate scum living off of decent folks and being a cancer to our society. Who is going to get these monsters off the street?You?doubt it. Its nice that you can take the time to trash Drug task forces, I wonder if your time would be better spent saving the environment, or volunteering in the local soup kitchen, or perhaps you could really put your money where your mouth is and join the military and defend your country instead of bad mouthing it.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Feel better new hampshire cop? Perhaps your self congratulatory tone will make the budet cuts go down easier.

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