Pubdate: Sat, 13 Mar 2004
Source: Amarillo Globe-News (TX)
Copyright: 2004 Amarillo Globe-News


Amarillo's $5 million settlement with the victims of the infamous 1999
Tulia drug sting likely will be the end of the Panhandle Regional
Narcotics Task Force. Amarillo, the lead agency for the PRNTF, will
end its association with the task force May 31. Considering the steep
price Amarillo had to pay for what happened in Tulia under the
auspices of the PRNTF, few can blame the city. However, the inevitable
demise of the PRNTF is a classic case of throwing out the baby with
the bath water.

Steps need to be taken to keep drug task forces as viable law
enforcement entities. The process rests with the Texas Department of
Public Safety, which has oversight and should enforce its authority
even by yanking grants, if necessary. Local law enforcement agencies
also need to implement coordinated investigative methods that follow
accepted standards, such as corroborating evidence.

There is no debating the inept, flawed and perhaps illegal aspects of
the drug sting and the damaging effects on the community.

But as we stated when the sordid details of the investigation into the
drug sting became public, what specifically went awry with the drug
sting that corroborating evidence such as an audiotape or videotape
would not have addressed?

Sadly, this was not the case in Tulia. Justice was manipulated and
destroyed based on law enforcement techniques, or the lack thereof,
that a majority of police departments, sheriff's departments and court
systems would never tolerate.

It is interesting to note that most government funds are distributed
with clear guidelines and standards that must be met by local
governments, such as for health care and highway construction. Yet for
some reason, money that was designated for a legitimate purpose, to
stop illegal drug activity, was allocated with little or no government
strings attached.

That is what needs to change with the PRNTF, if it is not too late.
The TDPS needs to adopt strict investigative requirements for drug
task forces - the same type of standards most law enforcement agencies

PRNTF opponents have stated cities and counties should address the
problem of illegal drugs, but most of these cities and counties do not
have Amarillo's financial resources. Because of one bad apple, these
smaller counties and cities that had nothing to do with what happened
in Tulia will also pay the price if state drug task forces get the
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake