Sheriff: Task force funds not enough

Published 11:50 am Monday, October 13, 2008

By By MaryClaire Foster- special to the Standard
An $80,000 grant the 21st Circuit Drug Task Force received this week from Gov. Bob Riley's office is appreciated but leaves officials wanting more.
The money is a sizable cut back from the force's original budget of $210,000 and the $140,000 received last year.
Because of previous cuts, the task force was split from being focused exclusively on county-wide operations with members in one building to members in three separate buildings working on narcotics cases as well as standard officer duties for their respective cities.
The task force is now composed of one full-time office, a prosecutor, a clerical worker and two investigators each on staff for Atmore and Brewton.
Smith said these major drug dealers are using Interstate 65 to traffic drugs, and not having a full force of officers to focus countywide hurts operations.
Smith expressed frustration over the U.S. Department of Justice's allotment of $500 million to the Mexican police force, along with a nearly equal amount to Columbian police forces and similar funds to other foreign countries. “They give to them and cut their own country 67 percent when the task force is recognized by everyone as being effective,” he said.
Atmore Police Chief Jason Dean expressed similar frustrations.
Dean said the department will continue to keep the two investigators on staff and will work with the other agencies to help out as much as possible.
A press release from Riley's office stated at least $8,000 of local funds had already been matched and committed to the task force.
Atmore Public Safety Director Glenn Carlee said officials do not know yet what portion of the $80,000 the City of Atmore will receive, but the city will match it up to 50 percent.
Smith said he is thankful to the district attorney and county commissioners for helping to fund the task force. “Without them, we wouldn't have any full-time agents,” he said.

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