Monday, February 27, 2006

'Byrne Grant Substitute' task force from DEA makes Lubbock busts

A Grits commenter who's a retired DEA agent pointed out that a DEA task force in Lubbock has picked up where the now-defunct Byrne-grant funded one left off - indictments for 33 alleged members of a crack distribution ring were executed this week and most of the defendants rounded up. The commenter called the DEA task force a "Byrne Grant Substitute" and predicted other TX jurisdictions may team up with the feds after the Byrne money stops flowing next month.

Most of the pictures from the sting, as in Tulia, are of unkempt black people in their bedclothes being paraded before various local media like the subjects of a Communist show trial. That's ironic since the big news in Lubbock recently was an
uptick in violent crime due to white supremacist gangs - they're allegedly involved in drugs, too, but as happened up the road in Tulia, the DEA task force obviously targeted a different part of town. According to a press release from the US Attorney, most of the defendants in the DEA sting could face life sentences.

Apparently these task forces are DEA-led but have local staffing, much like Byrne task forces that had DPS-affiliated commanders. I have to wonder which agencies participated - if mulitiple counties were involved,
under state law I thought those officers are supposed to be under the command and control of the Texas Department of Public Safety, not DEA.

From what I understand, such DEA task forces have the same problems as the Tulia-style task forces that are nearly defunct in Texas, including a lack of accountability (from too many agencies with conflicting chains of command) and a focus on low-level street dealers instead of bigger fish. That's because local agencies who contribute staffing to DEA task forces pressure the feds to focus on small-time dealers locally instead of the big guys you usually think of DEA going after. That pressure will likely increase as Byrne grant money for drug task forces dries up. This'll be an important development to watch.


Anonymous said...

"'Multicounty drug task force' means a mutual aid law enforcement task force that is established as a multicounty law enforcement cooperation between counties and municipalities..."

Doesn't refer to a fed agency.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I'm not talking about a federal agency. I'm talking about Texas county sheriffs and municipal PDs with officers assigned to a multi-county task force, in this case run by the DEA. They're chartered under the Texas constitution and subject to state law. When they choose to enter a multi-county task force of whatever type (HB 1239 didn't specify Byrne task forces), the law makes incumbent on them certain obligations like following DPS rules. That obligation lies with the local agencies, not the feds.

Anonymous said...

Re-read the law. It is VERY specific referring to jurisdiction, and the agreements between the counties and cities. Absent those agreements and/or specific jurisdiction, DPS loses ALL authority.

I know how that must make you feel, having done so much in support of that H.B.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Must jurisdictions enter into mutual aid agreements for officers from one county or city to work in another one? Are there cross-county mutual aid agreements created as part of participating outside your jurisdiction in DEA-led task forces? I don't know the answer to that, but it seems like such agreements might be necessary for local officers to work in other jurisdictions. If they do exist, then I doubt it's as cut and dried as you say.

Anonymous said...


Allow me to answer this very important question.

When someone from a county, state, or local department participates in these DEA led Task Forces, they are deputized under an agreement between DEA and the department. They're getting around state law whatever that is. DEA has also agreed to probably pay for overtime up around 10K (that's what is was when I left) and they may throw in a car, gas, or other perks to get them to join.

Your anonymous commenter is right, the feds don't apply and that's why I warned you it's coming.

Probably the biggest incentive is asset foreiture. That's where they really benefit and they can earn up to 80% of the total forfeiture if they seized it but they also can share a part of what they participate in.

DEA Task Forces are set up in larger DEA offices different than they are in smaller offices. In larger offices like Houston, there is probably 4 task force officers per DEA Agent. The supervisor may be a Houston PD Sgt or Lt. but it may be a DEA supervisor.

In smaller offices, the task force officers outnumber the Agents usually 6 to 1 or better. DEA won't tell you the ratio and if they do they'll go by how many Agents are suppose to be there, not there.

This sounds like a MET deployment so there was a memo written to justify the manpower and expense. It may not be a task force operation and it may be this is an OCDETF. Don't ask DEA, ask the U.S. Attorney's spokesman because if it's OCDETF, the arrest numbers go in their column; DEA's column, and all of the participants column. There may be so many arrest cards that the same person looks like they've been arrested about 10 times.

In any event, determine if it's DEA Task Force led; OCDETF, MET, HIDTA funded; RET, because it can be a combination of all of these and more. Once you find that out, let me know here, and I'll show you how to unravel a little of DEA's bullshit.

Anonymous said...

I know that APD uses several federal deals like that. The officers that shot that suspect in Elgin a few weeks ago were acting as federal marshals under a joint task force.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @3:40pm

Bingo. This has been going on for a long time and it surprises me no one has looked at or understands this.

Here's the blur. It takes alot of training to understand your job at any federal law enforcement level; especially if you want to be good at it and understand it.

It takes about 30 minutes for one of these FEDERAL DEPUTIZATIONS. So some county cop goes from jailer, to homicide detective, to international crime fighter overnight.

This is not a fault of the local, state and municipal agency. This is a fault of the federal agencies who use other resources to put big numbers up on the board while they fish, play golf, and run their wife's errands.

I had one Agent who showed all of the Task Force guys how to invest in real estate, and reported it in an official records as case activity.

Anonymous said...

I'd always suspected that something like shake-and-bake Federal deputization was occuring. It was only logical. And it shores up my theory about how these Fed DrugWar 'grants' are eroding local control of LEOs by circumventing the budgetary restrictions a municipality or county or State has on its' LEOs operations...and why it's so dangerous to civil liberties when 'your' police look to the Feds as their masters.

Anonymous said...


Most of the feds, except for supervisors who need that connection, don't like it either. You'll find as a GENERAL RULE that most of the agents and officers in these agencies want this whole TASK FORCE THING stopped NOW.

But here's the yang. What is a retired DEA SAC going to do after he retires: Be a securiy guard in a drug store. Right now, HIDTA, ONDCP, and all of the LECC jobs in U.S. Attorney's offices are filled with retired guys already making ovver 80 or 90K. They got the job cuz they were able at a very high level to combine uncombinable missions while the subordinates went home sleepless, worried, and scared that one day someone like Henson will get the ACLU to look into these JOINT OPERATIONS where the feds were to a large degree paying for but getting the joint.

Anonymous said...

Once again, the Texas National Guard Counter Drug Program dodges the Blog bullit. Soldiers have no business being invloved in this drug war cluster, especially when their military skills are needed in the real wars going on now. They are usually high ranking officers and sgt's spending as much as 10 years assigned to a law enforcement agency doing a clerks job.
This scam is a complete ripoff of tax dollars.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

That National Guard program is sort of it's own deal, isn't it? Do you know any specifics about what they are and aren't doing?

Anonymous said...

Yes, I know details.
They are also affiliated with Joint Task Force 6 at Ft Bliss Tx.
They used to have people at some of the byrne drug task forces also.
Their budget is under the state adjutant general office, however, they are usually assigned to federal & local task forces, police, & sheriff's dept's. Don't fear them, for they are just overpaid clerks for the local police, used as supplemental manpower.