Separate Drug Agencies Work Together 

Separate Drug Agencies Work Together 
Posted by CN Staff on February 16, 2003 at 09:31:31 PT
By Randi Rossmann, The Press Democrat
Source: Press Democrat 
Sonoma County now has two countywide drug task forces after a 3-year-old inter-agency effort nearly collapsed because of infighting and rocky leadership. One group, led by a state Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement sergeant, pursues neighborhood and mid-level drug crimes.The other, led by federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents, tackles major dealers and larger drug conspiracy cases that often lead out of the area.
Local police officers and sheriff's deputies, who help staff both agencies, said the dual approach, which includes marijuana investigations, seems to be working.The state-run force, made up of local police officers and deputies, has an agreement with those carrying proper medical marijuana clearance paperwork to follow county guidelines and state law regulating its use.For the DEA task force, there is no such thing as medical marijuana because it remains an illegal drug under federal law. Task force agents follow their own leads and decide whether to pursue cases.Sheriff Bill Cogbill said local law enforcement is pleased with the overall working relationship and extra resources provided by both federal and state resources."It's working better than we thought it might," he said."Clearly (the prior task force) had problems, but we seem to have worked those out. I've not heard a substantive concern about the operation since we reconfigured it," said Santa Rosa Police Cmdr. Scott Swanson.Sales and manufacturing of methamphetamines have dominated the local drug crime scene for years. Coupled with a steady load of marijuana and other drug cases, there is enough work for both groups, say law enforcement officials.In the 1980s, former law enforcement leaders wanted to form a task force to better handle the area's drug issues, which often spread beyond city and county jurisdictions. But the idea stalled because of funding problems or complications from trying to combine multiple police efforts.In 1988, Sonoma County voters turned down a measure aimed at raising taxes to fund a wide-ranging drug enforcement and counseling program.The larger police agencies then continued with their own narcotics squads. For a brief period, a few smaller departments joined together to make a united effort in their jurisdictions.In 1999, the federal government agreed to help finance a county task force and provide a DEA agent to supervise local police officers and deputies.In its three years of operation, it produced mixed results, with fault falling to multiple agencies, said several law officials. And with the DEA's interest in larger cases, the more prevalent mid-level drug dealers weren't getting the attention they needed, Cogbill said.About 18 months ago, the lack of a clear mission by management and jurisdictional competition inside the task force had chiefs talking of pulling out their officers or looking for new leadership.At that point, law enforcement leaders asked the state Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement to run the task force. The BNE runs similar local countywide efforts in seven Bay Area counties and about 40 areas statewide.DEA agents decided to stay in Sonoma County and offered to continue including local officers in their efforts.Complete Title: Separate Drug Agencies Work Together With Differing Agendas Source: Press Democrat, The (CA)Author: Randi Rossmann, The Press DemocratPublished: February 16, 2003Copyright: 2003 The Press DemocratContact: letters pressdemo.comWebsite: Article:County Pot Growers Nailed by DEA
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