Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Task force likes focus on low-level drug users

Texas was lauded recently for its nascent shift in drug war focus from incarcerating low-level drug users to going after major dealers and criminal investigations. That trend exists, and it's laudable, but we've still got some holdouts. The Northeast Texas Narcotics Task Force now plans to disband to avoid compliance with Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) accountability rules that undercover operations focus on criminal organizations, not low-level users:
Dusty Flanagan, the chief deputy at the Rusk County Sheriff's Office, said DPS wants to implement a narcotics strategy that focuses only on large drug dealers.

"What we have in our community is smaller drug dealers. (The DPS system) is not going to benefit us. We need to go after the small drug dealers and get them in jail," Flanagan told the Rusk County Commissioners Court.

"There's an old saying that you have to go after the little fish before you can go after the big fish. We have the little fish here in our community."
As Grits and others have documented many times, though, what drug task forces mean by the "little fish" are almost always drug users, not dealers. The typical "buy bust" case often comes after a confidential informant has actually used drugs with suspects, then pulls out cash supplied by the task force offering to buy more from their stash or from a third party. When the addict agrees, thinking they're helping a friend, they've fallen into a "delivery" beef, which is how Deputy Flanagan gets to call them "drug dealers." Most aren't. In Palestine, only four of the 72 people accused of participating in a "crack cocaine distribution ring" last fall were found with drugs in signficant quantities.

It was always an open question whether agencies participating in Texas' drug task force system would comply with best practices from the Department of Public Safety once DPS was given full command and control authority under HB 1239. That bill passed the Legislature and now awaits the Governor's signature. The Northeast Texas Narcotics Task Force has become the first to publicly refuse DPS oversight in the wake of the bill's passage.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I went to school with Dusty Flanagan.. I hate that he got caught up in this and hate what he did. I hope he is well and I wish him the best.