Drug task forces across Iowa face significant budget cuts

Officials say without enough funding, major drug trafficking investigations may become a thing of the past.

The Southeast Iowa Inter-Agency Drug Task Force was established in 1991 as a way to solely focus on drug investigations. Lt. Jason Bell of the Ottumwa Police Department used to be the supervisor of the drug task force.

â??One-hundred percent of their duties are to conduct some sort of drug enforcement investigations,â?? Lt. Bell said. â??Not only are they working on cases to present to the U.S. Attorney's Office and our county, they're also doing a lot of court preparation, preparing for trials on cases they've already had, and so there's a lot of work that task enforcement investigators do to benefit the community.â??

However, federal grant money that's available to task forces has reduced over the last several years.

"This next grant cycle, we're approaching appears there's going to be a 42 percent reduction in the available funds from task forces all over the State of Iowa to pull money from,â?? he said.

Lt. Bell says in the last grant cycle, the task force seized 33 pounds of methamphetamine during an investigation. So far authorities have made over 30 arrests in the case. Most of those involved were Wapello County Residents.

Officials say without enough funding, these types of major drug trafficking investigations may become a thing of the past.

â??General police officers that work patrol enforcement don't have the resources to conduct investigations of this nature, so a lot of the reduction in the available drugs to the community might go away if task force funding also goes away,â?? Lt. Bell said.

As bell applies for the next burn JAG grant, or Justice Assistance Grant, there is something you can do to help.

â??Elected officials like hearing from general members of the public instead of just police all the time on why those funds are important,â?? Bell said.

Four people currently work full time positions for the drug task force based in Southeast Iowa. Right now these employees have job security, but tough decisions could be impending in future grant cycles.