The very nature of the Jackson County Drug Task Force's work, which often entails risky undercover operations, means the unit's achievements might frequently be underappreciated. The need to protect the detectives' identities makes publicly acknowledging them a difficult proposition.
But if one organization can fully appreciate the arrests made and drug seizures by the task force, it's the Missouri Narcotic Officers Association (MNOA). Recently, the association bestowed one of its highest honors on the Jackson County Drug Task Force, naming it the Law Enforcement Unit of the Year.
The chief criteria for the award, according to the MNOA website, "is exemplary performance by a unit resulting in positive impact on a community or the law enforcement profession."
"Law enforcement agencies throughout Missouri have selected our drug task force as the Law Enforcement Unit of the Year for the entire state," emphasized Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders. "To be recognized by your peers, there is no higher honor."
Playing A Key Role In A Federal Case 'Stretching From Kansas City To Los Angeles'
During a news conference at the Kansas City county courthouse on Tuesday, April 24, Sanders joined Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp, Tammy Dickinson of the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office and Sugar Creek Police Chief Herb Soule in congratulating the task force on earning the award. Soule serves as the chair of the Jackson County Drug Task Force Executive Board. The task force was formed in 1985 and features representatives from 14 area law enforcement agencies, including 12 eastern Jackson County police departments, the Jackson County Sheriff's Office and the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Several of the police chiefs were on hand for news conference.
The task force, funded entirely through the Community Backed Anti-Drug Sales Tax (COMBAT), made 244 arrests in 2001 while seizing more than 4,000 grams of cocaine, 58 pounds of marijuana and 93 pounds of methamphetamine. Furthermore, it assisted other local, state and federal agencies in uncovering a $1 million drug trafficking conspiracy. As a result, 31 individuals were federally indicted for distributing cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana. Sanders noted those "indictments stretch from Kansas City to Los Angeles."
"The amount of contraband seized through this particular investigation staggers my imagination," said Soule. "It was in the millions of dollars. When you think of the heartbreak and destroyed lives that amount of drugs would have caused had it hit the streets, it becomes even more significant.
"To John Q. Public, the taxpayers who fund the task force, it is working."
'Regional Success Through Regional Collaboration'
Sheriff Sharp also thanked county taxpayers, stating, "Without them, funding for this task force would not be possible."
Dickinson, as a Chief Trial Assistant, oversees prosecuting drug cases that originate in eastern Jackson County. She credited the task force with bringing "great drug cases" to local and federal prosecutors. "This is just another way the COMBAT tax is producing enormous benefits for this city and the entire county."
The task force pools resources, with detectives from the various agencies involved teaming up to build cases against drug traffickers and other criminals. As a multi-jurisdictional unit, the task force can better pursue offenders whose activities cross city limits and other jurisdictional boundaries.
"Everyone is coming together in a collaborative way to fight drug crime in Jackson County," Sanders said. "This is an example of regional success through regional collaboration."
Sharp echoed those sentiments, saying, "Drug dealers know no boundaries. It is through our cooperative effort that we are able to go county-wide to fight the war on drugs. Because of this, Jackson County is a much safer place."
Detectives' Sacrifices Appreciated
The task force's frontline detectives obviously could not participate in the news conference, but their courage was acknowledged repeatedly by both Sanders and Sharp.
"Everyday, there are individuals who put themselves in harm's way for us," said Sanders. "The inherent nature of being a drug detective is dangerous. Beyond that, it takes them away from their families at odd hours of the night. Criminal activity doesn't occur nine to five; it occurs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. On Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, other holidays when we are with our families, these detectives are out there, working hard to make our streets safe."