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Covering state lawmakers, bills, and policy emerging from Jefferson City.

Governor's Budget Includes $3 million to Help Drug Task Forces

L-R: Highway Patrol Col. Ronald Replogle, Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams, Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott, Gov. Jay

Speaking at the Greene County Sheriff’s Office Monday, Gov. Jay Nixon says it’s important to keep the state’s multi-jurisdictional drug task forces on the front lines. As KSMU’s Scott Harvey reports, the Governor’s proposed budget includes $3 million for these agencies to restore a decline in federal funding.

In Fiscal Year 2012, the state’s drug task forces accounted for 21,000 cases, 9,000 arrests and busted 1,700 meth labs. Nixon says without making up for this loss in funding, which will drop from $6.2 million to $3.25 million,Missouri would have to take officers off the drug beat.

“We must meet their courage with our commitment to providing them the resources they need to win their battle in the war on drugs, especially in meth. Because the best asset we have in law enforcement is the men and women that wear the badge. Every day they fight drug use in our state,” Nixon said.

In southwest Missouri, more than three dozen area law enforcement agencies participate in the Combined Ozarks Multi-Jurisdictional Enforcement Team, or COMET. Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott says absence of these funds would mean less money for, among other things, undercover operations.

“COMET does all of our narcotics investigations,” Arnot says. “So anywhere from undercover buys to meth lab cleanups, COMET is the agency that’s responsible in doing that for us.”

The task force receives about $350,000 in funding, Nixon says, which would remain as is should lawmakers pass the Governor’s $3 million proposal for all the state’s drug task forces. In the latest fiscal year, COMET worked more than 1,000 cases, made more than 800 arrests, and busted more than 100 meth labs

Nixon says the choice is clear, and hopes legislators will “stand with law enforcement” in backing this funding.

“It is vital that we keep the troops out there in the field, in the place that’s both dangerous and effective. Drug task forces have proven to be the place where a significant portion of our arrests, our investigations, come from.”

There are more than two dozen multi-jurisdictional drug task forces in Missouri.