Friday, May 25, 2018

Remembering Texas' now-defunct drug-task-force system

On Twitter, a reader came up with a blast from the past, asking whatever happened to Texas' multi-jurisdictional drug task forces, which I'd written about in two different public-policy reports back when I worked for the Texas ACLU, along with countless Grits posts in the mid-aughts:
The answer, long-time readers may recall, is that Gov. Rick Perry de-funded all of Texas' task multi-jurisdictional narcotics forces in 2006, shifting half the money to drug courts (and other types of specialty courts) and half to border security (this was the first pot of money spent to bolster border security in Texas on essentially nativist grounds).

This transition was the result of a multi-year campaign which began in the aftermath of the Tulia drug stings in 1999, an episode which in many ways marks the beginning of the modern criminal-justice reform movement in Texas.

The timeline went thusly: In 2005, the Legislature put the task forces under control of the Texas Department of Public Safety, which created rules to regulate them under the same strictures as DPS' own Narcotics Division. But the task forces balked at the new rules, in many cases openly defying the DPS commander in charge of them. And a year or so later, Gov. Perry simply chose to spend federal grant money on other priorities.

To my knowledge, Texas is the only state to get rid of its drug task forces on accountability grounds, and it's worth noting that the sky didn't fall. Indeed, hardly anyone who wasn't a grant recipient seemed to notice or care. Grits has maintained for years that other states should follow Texas' lead.

MORE: Check out a followup post.


Steven Michael Seys said...

Hay, Scott. Rosa Goldensohn just posted an article in the New York Times today that is just your cup of tea. Look for the headline, "They Shared Drugs. Someone Died. Does That Make Them Killers?"

Gritsforbreakfast said...

That's more for Greg Abbott than for me. He's the one who vetoed Texas' Good Samaritan law encouraging people to call 911 when their friends overdose by foregoing criminal charges against them.

Anonymous said...

Auto theft task forces are out there in mass. Few operated or under DPS oversight

Anonymous said...

When I was a high school senior in 1969 I saw President Nixon on televisions saying "we are winning the war against dangerous drugs." Now, living in El Paso near the border I see young men exchanging boxes at 2 in the morning and driving away in expensive SUVs and pick up trucks. But-but surely the sophisticated Texas voters will discern that multibillion satellites that work for DEA are STILL a good investment for the nation...................