When new investigators join the Jackson County Drug Task Force, Officer in Charge Dan Cummings tells them, "I'm going to afford you the opportunity of a lifetime, and it's what you make of it. You're going to work harder than ever before in your career, and you're going to have the most fun you've ever had."
What's fun about perilous undercover work, dealing with dangerous drug traffickers?Cummings answered that question during the Jackson County Legislature's meeting Monday, April 14: "I think we're doing some really great things and putting some really bad people in jail, which is really fun."
Their peers from throughout Missouri agree that Cummings and his Task Force team are raising the standard for excellence with regard to "putting some really bad people in jail." For the third consecutive year, the Missouri Narcotic Officers Association (MNOA) has named the Jackson County Drug Task Force the Law Enforcement Unit of the Year. The association also recognized Cummings as the 2013 Officer of the Year.
Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp and County Executive Mike Sanders each noted the Drug Task Force exemplifies the criteria for the MNOA award, which cites "exemplary performance by a unit resulting in a positive impact on the community."
"Without their dedication, we'd be at the mercy of the drug traffickers in eastern Jackson County," Sharp said of Task Force investigators.
He described undercover narcotics detectives as a "different breed of cat," as they work covertly to build cases against drug dealers.
"The men and women who do that for the Jackson County Drug Task Force put their lives on the line each and every day," Sharp said, "putting themselves in situations that you and I will never understand. I don't get it. I don't understand why they do it, but I thank God every day that they do it for us."
205 Cases Presented To Prosecutors In 2013
County Executive Sanders emphasized the difficult nature of the work that the Task Force takes part in.
"This is not low-level street crime we're talking about here," said Sanders. "This is high-end drug trafficking they are dealing with."
In 2013, the Jackson County Drug Task Force seized more than 29 pounds of methamphetamines, 606 pounds of marijuana, nearly 300 pounds of synthetic narcotics, as well as large amounts of crack and cocaine powder. All told, these drugs had a street value exceeding $7.5 million.The Task Force's work resulted in 205 cases being presented to prosecutors in 2013, including 128 at the federal level. Furthermore, 177 arrests were made.
The Drug Task Force is funded through one local source, COMBAT, the Community-Back Anti-drug Tax, which is a one-quarter cent sales tax countywide.
Without citizens supporting COMBAT, Sharp noted that the Sheriff's Office and the smaller communities in eastern Jackson County would have no drug unit "nexus" to cope with traffickers.
Sanders stated, "But for COMBAT, but for the funding it provides, we would have not had those 205 cases presented for prosecution and the 177 arrests made for people selling illegal narcotics in our community."
Being Picked No. 1 By Their Peers
Sanders also praised Sharp and Sugar Creek Police Chief Herb Soule for their leadership serving on the Drug Task Force Executive Board, alongside the police chiefs from 11 other Jackson County communities. Sanders called Soule "the intellectual architect" behind implementing changes to the Drug Task Force, and he credited Sharp for, upon becoming County Sheriff in 2009, "re-energizing the unit," while seeking out Cummings to lead the Task Force.
"I've gone to the [MNOA] annual conference the last couple of years to see these awards handed out," Soule said. "It does me proud to see in a room of 300, 400 people -- all of them in law enforcement -- that our people are being picked No. 1."Rarely has the MNOA bestowed its two highest awards upon the same enforcement agency in the same year. Cummings certainly fits the Officer of the Year award criteria of "exceptional dedication to duty," Sanders pointed out.
"I worked with Dan in the Prosecutor's Office," the County Executive said, "and he earned a reputation as someone who didn't just talk the talk, but also walked the walk. In the short time since Dan took over the Drug Task Force, it's gone from a unit that was a fine unit to one that is now the best in the state and one of the best in the Midwest. That's due essentially to Dan's leadership."
The fact every member of the Jackson County Drug Task Force endorsed Cummings' nomination for Officer of the Year demonstrated to Sheriff Sharp "the respect they all have for Dan's leadership."
The respect is mutual.
"If it wasn't for the other 20 guys in the Task Force out there, I wouldn't be here," Cummings told the County Legislature. "I'm not the guy out there buying drugs. I didn't buy one gram last year. Unfortunately, I can't parade my guys in here and let you thank them."