Thats because so much of what the task force does is covert, undercover, and somewhat secret. There are five soon to be six agents in addition to Black, but their identities are generally kept secret. They dress in plain clothes, drive unmarked cars, and work out of an undisclosed location.
Its the only way to do the job effectively, Black said. Black became commander on Jan. 21 after serving as police chief for the Fort Oglethorpe Police Department since May 2006. He said he left that situation because he wanted to be in a law enforcement position in which he could concentrate on doing his job without political interference. Fort Oglethorpe has gone through several police chiefs in the last few years.
Were responsible for any drug investigations in the circuit, the commander said. A lot of people think the task force is a state job, but its not.
The task force is composed of law officers from sheriffs departments in Walker, Catoosa, Dade and Chattooga counties, as well as and the LaFayette Police Department. The task force covers drug problems in all four counties.
We provide a much-needed service for our community, Black said.
Catoosa County Sheriff Phil Summers said he realized long ago that drug activity affecting his territory doesnt stop at the county line.
The Lookout Mountain Drug Task Force consists of law officers from sheriffs departments in Walker, Catoosa, Dade and Chattooga counties, as well as and the LaFayette Police Department. The task force covers drug problems in all four counties.
The task forces budget this year was $261,000. Federal funding normally supplies about 40 percent of each officers salary while local governments provide the rest. If our grant is cut, then it will mean less of a reimbursement to those individual counties and chiefs. It would be a tragic loss to law enforcement. --- Larry Black
The county lines are barriers a lot of times for independent sheriffs offices, he said. Drugs and drug dealers dont recognize those boundaries. They go wherever they think they can make a sale.
Summers said the Lookout Mountain task force was formed in 1990 and was one of the first in Georgia. The ability to have additional manpower to work certain investigations as needed is beneficial to all of the counties, he said.
Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson said he was on the original drug task force and at one point was its commander. He said he noticed a considerable difference after it was formed.
Its been a good, good program, he said. We never really expected it to last 18 years when it began ... I think we have the resources now to go after drug dealers. It was very hard to investigate a drug case prior to the task force forming.
The setup is different than for most law enforcement agencies. While Black now answers to a control board consisting of sheriffs or chiefs and the district attorney from the counties he covers, that doesnt mean politics is completely out of the way. Federal authorities plan to cut funding by between 30 percent and 65 percent for the coming year, Black said.
The task forces budget this year was $261,000, he said. The federal grant normally supplies about 40 percent of each officers salary while local governments provide the rest.
If our grant is cut, then it will mean less of a reimbursement to those individual counties and chiefs, he said. It would be a tragic loss to law enforcement.
Another side to the issue is that drug investigations often help solve other crimes like murder and assault, too, he said. He said agents spend most of their time on investigations involving crack cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana.
Typically, Black said, agents seize the property and vehicles of people they arrest for dealing or manufacturing drugs. Once they go through proper channels in the courts, the property can then be sold and the profits used for law enforcement.
That money cannot be used for salaries, Black said. That money is used for equipment and vehicles.
Summers said funds for the drug task force have been cut before, but if they are cut too deeply counties begin to drop out. Dade County dropped out at one point before rejoining this year, he said, and Catoosa County rejoined about four years ago after staying out for a while.
I think the grant is extremely important to our area, Summers said. The drug task force does benefit law enforcement as a whole.
Wilson said that while the task force has undergone funding cuts before, losing money now could jeopardize the task forces ability to be effective.
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