Pubdate: Sun, 06 Jan 2002
Source: Ft. Worth Star-Telegram (TX)
Copyright: 2002 Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, Texas
Author:  Bob Ray Sanders
Bookmark: (Corruption)


Drug Arrests Warrant Scrutiny Of Dallas Police

The Dallas Police Department has a serious "drug" problem that can't be 
cured by any amount of spin.

It needs to be addressed quickly by investigators without connections to 
the department.

It is a problem that the police chief can't dismiss with war-on-drugs 
statistics, I- stand-by-my-officers rhetoric or suggestions that if you're 
not with him on this one, you're against him.

I know Police Chief Terrell Bolton has had more than his share of enemies 
and battles in his short tenure, but as far as we know no outside 
detractors have brought this latest scandal on the department.

Last week the chief said at a news conference that the drugs seized in many 
arrests were fake. In at least a dozen cases the substance sold as drugs 
was crushed gypsum, the mineral used to make sheet rock.

Charges against several suspects have either been dropped or significantly 

Another factor further taints the drug busts. The primary source who 
prompted the arrests and confiscations was a paid informant.

The informant is one of the highest-paid people on the police department 
payroll; he has received $200,000 over two years. A police official said 
the unidentified man had aided in 78 drug buys resulting in 35 arrests.

Although he is investigating, the chief has expressed confidence in his 
officers and the informant. And he is adamant that seizing fake drugs is 
still good police work because they could be very harmful if used and 
selling them is illegal.

That may be true, but that's spin - a diversion from the main issues.

The major concern here is not the bad (or fake) drugs, but the bad 
information leading to bad arrests, which make the narcotics division and 
the entire department look bad.

Bolton was unapologetic about using a highly paid snitch.

"Now some people may frown on this," he said. "But I'm sorry; in this war 
on drugs, you can't get the information you need from your grandmother or 
the folks next door."

The chief also attempted to relate the fake drugs to the events of Sept. 11.

"Let this be a warning," he said. "Since Sept. 11, you don't know what 
you're getting out there."

Where did that come from? Will gypsum be Osama bin Laden's next terrorist 

Police narcotics divisions have often depended on informants who have 
something to gain - money, reduced charges, etc. - for their cooperation. 
That has always presented a credibility problem when the cases go to trial.

The policy of using paid informants needs to be re-examined, especially in 
cases where the informant's pay is based on the amount of drugs confiscated.

In Dallas, where the narcotics division tends to have a lot of money, much 
of it from property seizures - to play with, there ought to be a careful 
analysis of the division's budget and how its money is used.

This is no time for the Dallas Police Department to circle the wagons in an 
attempt at damage control.

The city manager should arrange for an investigation by a state or federal 
agency, and let the gypsum chips fall where they may.

Bob Ray Sanders' column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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