Pubdate: Sun, 01 Apr 2001
Source: Olympian, The (WA)
Copyright: 2001 The Olympian
Author: John Graber
Note: John Graber covers Lacey, Tumwater and military issues for The Olympian.


Work With Police Concerns Some Civil Libertarians

"It brings expertise and resources that wouldn't be otherwise available to 
us." -- Capt. Jim Chamberlain, Thurston County Narcotics Task Force

"We don't feel any of our soldiers, full time or part time, should be 
involved in a war on the American people." -- Jerry Sheehan, American Civil 
Liberties Union

OLYMPIA -- By all accounts, Sgt. Tammy Jackson is an invaluable member of 
the Thurston County Narcotics Task Force.

She does everything from verifying anonymous tips to surveying suspected 
drug dealers to dismantling marijuana farms.

"She frees up officers' time," task force Capt. Jim Chamberlain said. "The 
tasks she performs would have to be performed by someone else."

But she is not a member of any law enforcement agency.

Jackson is a member of the Army National Guard. She is one of 80 people 
statewide -- six in Thurston County -- working with local law enforcement 
through the Army and Air National Guard's Counter Drug Task Force. Her 
salary is paid through a $4 million annual federal grant.

"Every state and territory ... have what I'm talking about," said Air 
National Guard Col. Drew Blazey, who commands the Counter Drug Task Force.

National funding for the program is about $170 million this year, Blazey said.

The policy of using guardsmen in the war on drugs began in 1989, when 
Congress allocated $40 million for the purpose, said Kathleen Gereski, a 
National Guard Bureau spokeswoman in Washington, D.C.

The Thurston County Narcotics Task Force arrested or referred 123 people 
for prosecution and seized $3.1 million worth of drugs last year.

In 1999, 90 people were arrested or referred for prosecution and $7.5 
million in drugs was seized. The results would not have been possible 
without the National Guard's help, Chamberlain said.

"It brings expertise and resources that wouldn't be otherwise available to 
us," Chamberlain said.

Resources And Skills

The guard's task force has three OH-58 helicopters and a C-26 airplane at 
its disposal.

It also has equipment like ion scanners used to detect miniscule amounts of 
drugs. The Thurston County Narcotics Task Force used one of them in 1999 to 
detect abnormally large traces of cocaine on $29,000 in bills stored in a 
safe deposit box.

"We were able to show it was drug money actually, because you couldn't tell 
by just looking at it," Chamberlain said.

The Guard also provides specialized skills like translating, to which local 
officers may not have access when dealing with suspects who don't speak 

A special forces guard unit stationed in Buckley also conducts surveillance 
operations along the U.S.-Canadian border several times a year, Blazey said.

While guardsmen involved in the Counter Drug Task Force are stationed 
throughout the state, the majority of them are along the Interstate 5 corridor.

There are strict laws covering what guardsmen can and cannot do.

"We can't touch the law enforcement side of it," Jackson said. "We don't 
carry weapons in general. There can be special occasions, but it has to be 
cleared through the adjutant general's office. As far as my end of it, it's 
never come to that."

Jackson was on active duty in the Army for six years before switching over 
to the Guard 12 years ago. She has volunteered for task force duty for the 
last seven years.

"It's helping my community," said Jackson, an Olympia resident.

She has a love-hate relationship with the job, she said. She has two years 
before retirement, and she doesn't know if she can stay with the task 
force. She enjoys being a positive force, but some of the situations she 
has witnessed weigh on her.

"You see an adult lost in their addiction and there is a child lost in the 
middle of it," Jackson said. "I don't feel I have the right to judge the 
people, but at the same time, you want to take the baby up and save it."

Voices Of Opposition

Not everybody feels it is proper to use military troops to enforce drug laws.

"We have great problems with this," said Jerry Sheehan, legislative 
director for the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington state. "We 
don't feel any of our soldiers, full time or part time, should be involved 
in a war on the American people. It is a war on some adults who choose to 
put chemicals in their bodies that the government does not approve of."

Washington law allows for military personnel to be used in anti-drug 
efforts. So does federal law, but that may be the effect of political 
pressure to bend certain laws in order to fight the war on drugs, said 
Graham Boyd, director of the ACLU's drug policy litigation project in New 
Haven, Conn.

That's unfortunate, Sheehan said, because the military was neither created 
to address civilian issues, nor does it have the training to do so.

"Law enforcement is a civilian affair; it is not a military affair," 
Sheehan said. "That said, the military is not trained to police our 
community. The military is trained to deal with the enemy, and when they do 
encounter enemies of the country, to kill them.

"That is difficult training to apply to our own citizens."
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