Drug Task Force Lures Teens With Alcohol

Drug Task Force Lures Teens With Alcohol
Posted by FoM on December 11, 1999 at 08:51:31 PT
News Article Submitted By Harvey Ginsburg, Ph.D. 
Source: PBS Snitch
Staff Reporter Roy Parrish was working for the police, but he didn't act like it. While cooperating with the Hays County Narcotics Task Force -- a joint effort of the San Marcos Police and Hays County Sheriff's Departments -- on a four month marijuana investigation in Wimberley, the informant frequently threw huge parties at his Task Force financed hotel room, supplying booze and barbecue, often to minors.
At least that's the accusation raised in a recent Texas Observer article on the May 24 shooting death of 25-year-old Alexander "Rusty" Windle -- a Wimberley resident killed during the Task Force's raid of over a dozen homes that night. The comments have raised eyebrows around San Marcos, a town that, earlier that month, committed another task force to aggressively enforce underage drinking laws. Though he checked into cabin number 14 at the 7-A Ranch resort in Wimberley under the name Roger Dalton, court records related to the March 24 roundup confirm Parrish as the Task Force's confidential informant and place him in the room from where he made numerous drug buys. Kasia Zinz, a secretary at the resort, told the Daily Record his loud parties were the source of frequent complaints -- Parrish disappeared before the sting owing the resort over $100 -- and the management was considering evicting him. "It was free reign," Zinz said. "No matter what age you were, there was always beer in the fridge and whiskey on the counter. He (Parrish) was a hypocrite because there wasn't one time I didn't see the man when he wasn't looped." Zinz, who was also arrested in the drug sting, said she knew the minors from Wimberley and that some were as young as 14. Other employees at the quiet resort confirm Parrish stuck out like a sore thumb. Frequently inebriated, resort management said his parties were the center of attention for scores of area teens. "There was a tremendous amount of traffic and it was all teenagers all going to his cabin," said one manager who, out of fear of Parrish -- she has since learned of his criminal record -- asked not to be identified. "I never would have thought this guy was working for our law enforcement," the manager said. "It seems like an informant would need to be sober." The article, recently reprinted in other Central Texas publications, brought the accusations to the attention of local drug policy reform activist Harvey Ginsburg, and he's hopping mad. During public comment, he brought the issue to the attention of the San Marcos City Council last night. "Is it right or wrong for police to provide alcohol to a minor, it's wrong," said Ginsburg, a psychology professor at Southwest Texas State University. "If you can't say that, I will consider doing my civic duty and propose a 'non binding' ballot initiative resolution to allow local voters to say it...if they won't," Ginsburg said previously, "that says something about the character of this 'zero tolerance' town." Council did not comment on the matter, and because it was not an official agenda item, no action was taken. Ginsburg has some experience bringing controversial issues before voters. In 1997 he spearheaded an initiative asking the San Marcos Police Department to "turn its head" to the medicinal smoking of marijuana. He succeeded in getting the proposition on the ballot, but not in passing it. Voters denied it two to one. Even if Zinz's allegations are true -- Task Force officials say they have no "verifiable knowledge" that they are -- it's not likely that city or county funds were used to purchase the alcohol as each entity pays for only the salaries, vehicles, and equipment used by its committed officers. The city police department pays for five officers, the sheriff's department, six. A federally funded Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms agent rounds out the core 12 member unit. The rest of the task force's operating expenses come from asset forfeitures -- currency, vehicles, weapons, even real estate associated with illegal activity and awarded by a court of law after a drug bust.While twenty-five percent of these drug-related assets go to the district attorney's office, the rest is divided between SMPD and the county sheriff's department for Task Force investigative expenses. An earlier Hays County Narcotics Task Force disbanded after a five year run in 1994 because these asset forfeiture funds were "kind of drying up" said then sheriff Paul Hastings. The Task Force was reorganized in June 1998 under new leadership: sheriff Don Montague and police chief Steve Griffith. Though whether Parrish provided alcohol to minors with this money is unclear, Task Force Commander Regis DeArza says the world of illegal drug trade is rife with unsavory behavior, the least of which may be underage drinking. Confidential informants provide law enforcement with a link to that world. "Using these people (informants), we try to take every precaution we can," said DeArza, a 27 year veteran of the Department of Public Safety. "In many cases we're dealing with somebody who has a questionable background to begin with." According to state DPS records, Parrish was an ex-con who had served separate two year prison sentences for burglary and drug possession. Though the exact terms under which Parrish was retained are not available, all informants are required to sign "cooperating agreements" with the Task Force in which, among other things, they agree not to violate any laws in the gathering of information. Depending on the quality of their information, they may be given reward money from asset forfeiture funds, or may negotiate with the district attorney for lighter sentences. "We're certainly not going to knowingly ply alcohol to a minor to get them to go do something, that's just not reality," DeArza said. "But in that kind of environment, it's plausible a minor could be drinking, smoking marijuana, using methamphetamine, cocaine all those things could be taking place." Regardless, Ginsburg believes the under age drinking allegations -- Zinz has nothing to gain or lose by sticking to her account, he says -- and wants the city council to put a stop to it. DeArza says he supports any city council direction on the matter. In a twist of fate, Ginsburg -- who says his marijuana initiative was defeated in part by a DEA and Hays Caldwell Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse information campaign that told the local business community it would be hurt by the proposition -- wonders what effect publicity surrounding the May Task Force shooting will have on San Marcos' and Hays Çounty's image. Sue Cohen, Hays Caldwell Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse director, is more concerned about the mixed messages Ginsburg and San Marcos' pro-legalization lobby are sending to schoolchildren more than the possibility Task Force informants are providing those children with alcohol. "I wasn't concerned (about the accusations)," Cohen said. "It's all hearsay. These were the folks that were at those parties that were saying these things. Any efforts to keep drugs off the streets we strongly support." Though he would like to believe the May 24 shooting of Windle was the tragic crescendo to the county's beefed up drug war -- the Task Force agent who fired the shots was cleared of wrongdoing by a grand jury -- Ginsburg says similar events are sure to follow. Pointing to incidents, most recently in Denver where, based on possibly erroneous information from an informant, police entered the wrong house and killed its occupant, Ginsburg fears an overzealous Task Force combined with the use of "questionable" informants will result in more deaths. "It's a question of when, not if it happens here," Ginsburg said. San Marcos Daily Record PagePublished: December 7, 1999The San Marcos,(Texas)Daily Record does not have a website. Please use writer Murvin Evans email: Murtis or the San Marcos Daily Record email: SMDRnews News Article Submitted By Harvey Ginsburg, Ph.D. Note : Since The Newspaper Doesn't Have A Web Address I used PBS's SNITCH Web Site.
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on December 13, 1999 at 11:30:43 PT
Cannabis News needs to make a correction to the above article. Roy Parrish was not the Staff Reporter! Sorry for any confusion this might have caused!
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