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Quartzsite, Arizona

Friday, March 22, 2013

La Paz County Task Force power struggles

At March 18th's meeting of La Paz County Board of Supervisors' meeting, newly elected Sheriff John Drum read a letter into the record regarding the county's Task Force. The letter was then published on the Internet at  Quartzsite Police Chief Jeff Gilbert responded with a statement. Drum issued a statement in response. The letters are below in order of appearance. 

La Paz County Sheriff John Drum's letter to County Supervisors:

"I am here today to talk with you about the La Paz County Task Force. When La Paz County broke away from Yuma in 1983, we didn’t have a Narcotics Task Force. Our officers handled drug cases as they occurred and the only drug enforcement we had within our County was coordinated by the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

Recognizing that we needed to be more than “reactive”, the La Paz County Narcotics Task Force was established. It was hosted by the Sheriff’s Office and consisted of the Sheriff’s Office, AZ DPS, Parker Police and the CRIT Police Department.

During that time, the Task Force was funded by a grant with the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission (ACJC). This grant paid for four Detective’s salaries (for a total of $140,000 per year) and it allowed the local agencies to dedicate officers to a group that could focus on narcotic activity and organized crime.

As the County grew, so did the need for a more aggressive approach to fighting drug sales and trafficking. In 2002, the La Paz County Task Force became part of the HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas) initiative and added the Quartzsite Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration. HIDTA is a nationwide initiative that provided the Unit with $110,000 per year and the intelligence/assistance needed to keep up with the new trends observed coming out of the larger cities and Mexico.

By 2009, the Task Force, which was commanded and controlled by the La Paz County Sheriff’s Office, and was receiving approximately $250,000 a year in grants, we had a successful I.G.A. with the Colorado River Indian Tribes and we were recognized by the President of the United States for our pro-active approach to dismantling drug trafficking organizations within the C.R.I.T. reservation. We also were averaging 190 major felony cases per year and the communities/towns across La Paz County noticed a significant decrease in the amount of “local drug dealers” within our communities.

In July of 2010, the Sheriff’s Department relinquished command of the Narcotics Task Force. Since that time, we have noticed a significant decrease in drug enforcement across the County, we lost the I.G.A. with the Colorado River Indian Tribes, we have lost both the ACJC and the HIDTA grants totaling in $250,000 per year and there were a total of only 56 cases investigated in 2012.

Being a retired Law Enforcement officer (Narcotics Detective), I know what it takes to re-build and sustain the Narcotics Task Force. It is my intention to re-establish command and control of unit so we can recover the grants and begin working with other agencies to bring us back to where we need to be.

There is a lot of speculation around the community that it is my intention to dismantle the Task Force to build my own unit. That is not entirely true; my plan is to put together an effective Task Force that stays focused on the overall objective without self-interest and politics getting in the way. If the Parker Police Department and the Quartzsite Police Department would like to join us, I would like the local agencies to come together with C.R.I.T., the Department of Public Safety, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Border Patrol so we can share personnel, resources, and funding to create a Task Force that everyone in La Paz County can be proud of."

Quartzsite Police Chief Jeff Gilbert released the following statement Thursday night:

"On March 18, 2013, a letter was read into the record at the La Paz County Board of Supervisor’s meeting by Sheriff John Drum regarding the La Paz County Task Force.  The statements made by Sheriff Drum are mostly inaccurate and very misleading.

In October, 2007, La Paz County, The Town of Parker and the Town of Quartzsite entered into a new Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) establishing the La Paz County Anti-Drug and Racketeering Enforcement Task Force know as CADRE.  The new IGA became effective with all three governing bodies agreeing to a term of five (5) years with an automatic renewal of another five years unless otherwise terminated by the parties.  The IGA automatically renewed at the beginning of 2013 for a new five year period.

I have served on the CADRE Board of Directors for nearly eight years as the Chief of Police for the Town of Quartzsite.  Before that time I served as the Operations Lieutenant for the Task Force for a period of two years from 2001-2003, while employed with the Colorado River Indian Tribes Police Department.  Before that time I regularly participated at the monthly meetings as a representative for the CRIT Police Department during my ten year tenure.

For more than fifteen years, I have personally witnessed and participated in a Task Force that had one common goal as an objective.  This one common goal was to be effective in combating the illegal drug activities in La Paz County, the Town of Quartzsite, the Town of Parker and the CRIT Reservation.  We did not draw lines in the sand.

What Sheriff Drum has presented to the Board of Supervisors and the community members of La Paz County with his statement is nothing short of drawing a “line in the sand”.  He has presented an ultimatum to the Town of Quartzsite and the Town of Parker to “join him” along with C.R.I.T., the Department of Public Safety, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Border Patrol to “create a Task Force that everyone in La Paz County can be proud of.”

Maybe Sheriff Drum has not been in office long enough to realize that we already have a Task Force that all the communities of La Paz County “are” proud of.  We are already working collectively and cooperatively with AZ DPS, DEA, Border Patrol, HIDTA, and our Board just recently met last week with representatives of C.R.I.T. to discuss final terms of a new IGA with them.  

You have my commitment as the Chief of Police for the Quartzsite Police Department to continue working with the Parker Police Department and Chief Mendoza, alongside the La Paz County Attorney Tony Rogers, to continue to keep our current Task Force strong and effective.  I hope that Sheriff Drum decides not to let his “self-interest and politics” get in his way of doing the same.  For no one agency can handle the job that needs to be done alone.

Jeff Gilbert, Chief of Police
Quartzsite Police Department

La Paz County Sheriff John Drum's response:

"I would like to respond to Chief Gilbert’s response to the letter I read to the Board of Supervisors on March 18th, 2013. None of the statements in this letter are misleading or inaccurate.
Let’s start with HIDTA and ACJC: I met with Chief Mendoza on March 21st and we discussed this very thing. When the La Paz County Sheriff’s Office ran the Task Force, the Task Force was receiving funding from HIDTA and ACJC. Since the CADRE took over the HIDA and ACJC funding was lost. This is fact not misleading or inaccurate. There may be a play in words here. HIDTA was suspended. This means there is no funds coming to La Paz County because of this, so when I said “lost” the funding; I meant it is not there anymore.
It is clearly obvious the productivity of the Task Force is way down since the CADRE took over. What I drafted in the letter were stats received from the CADRE and Task Force. Nothing misleading or inaccurate stated here.
When Chief Gilbert was a Lieutenant overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Task Force between 2001 and 2003, the Task Force was being run by the Sheriff’s Office. The Task Force was going broke during this time and he and the Sheriff’s Office Command were extremely frugal with the funds. After he left the Task Force, all Local, State, and Federal Agencies began to participate in a cooperative manner. This resulted in large narcotic and currency seizures. The Currency Seizures over a six year period ran into millions of dollars. This is a fact not misleading or inaccurate.
I am aware there is a CADRE or Task Force in this county. I was able to attend a Task Force meeting when I was a County Supervisor. Without going into detail, I knew then the CADRE was BROKEN!
Since 2010 when the CADRE took over, the funds in the Task Force have depleted dramatically. Chief Gilbert was in the Task Force when it was almost broke and now the same thing is on the horizon. I told my constituents if I was elected Sheriff I would make a Task Force that is accountable. This means more productivity, increased personnel and fiscal responsibility.
I want all of us to work together and I welcome the participation of all agencies interested. This matter will be resolved with all of us coming together as Department Heads.
Sheriff John Drum
La Paz County Sheriff


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