Pubdate: Tue, 27 Apr 2004
Source: Amarillo Globe-News (TX)
Copyright: 2004 Amarillo Globe-News
Author: Greg Cunningham, The Amarillo Globe-News
Bookmark: (Tulia, Texas)


'It's Going to Be an Evolving Type of Deal'

Hutchinson County Officials Working on Agency to Take Over Drug Task Force

STINNETT - The demise of the Panhandle Regional Narcotics Trafficking
Task Force has left a lot of counties and cities scrambling to fill a
gap in drug enforcement. Hutchinson County appears to be getting a
jump on the problem, with plans to create a countywide cooperative
group that would take over for the task force, which is being
disbanded in the wake of the controversial 1999 Tulia drug bust.

Officials from the county, Borger, Stinnett, Fritch and Lake Meredith
are working to put together interagency agreements that would allow
the formation of the group, but the exact form it will take has yet to
be decided.

"This is going to be an evolving type of deal," said Borger Police
Chief Jimmy Adams. "We're getting working agreements to cover all the
legal ends of it, and as time goes on, we will expand what the
cooperation will cover. None of us have the funds to go into a
full-blown organizational deal right off the bat."

The unnamed group - nobody is referring to it as a task force - is
necessitated by the loss of the PRNTF, which is being shut down as
part of a settlement with the defendants arrested in the Tulia drug
bust. The city of Amarillo served as the lead agency for the task
force and agreed to shut it down as part of a $5 million settlement
last month.

Hutchinson County Sheriff Guy Rowh said the loss of the task force is
going to be difficult, but each county and city will have to find a
way to fill the gap and continue the fight against drugs.

"It will be tough," Rowh said. "In my opinion, we just had it too good
for a lot of years. It was unfortunate what occurred with the task
force, but we've got to move on and do something."

Hutchinson County Judge Jack Worsham said representatives from law
enforcement agencies in the county presented a plan to the commission
Monday and hoped to have all the interlocal agreements worked out by
next month.

The agreements would give officers from Lake Meredith, the county and
the three cities the ability to help each other out and share

"I don't see this as a real formal thing," Worsham said. "I think the
officers will be working closely and sharing information. If one
agency needs help making arrests or something, the other officers will
be able to assist."

Borger had long contributed an officer to the PRNTF, and that officer
will be coming back to town to focus on drugs countywide. Beyond that,
only time will tell what other resources are brought to bear.

"We feel like we're going in the right direction," Adams

"We're not going to lay down and let the drug dealers have it, that's
for sure. If they deal drugs, they need to know they might get their
day in court."
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