The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is charged with the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act as well as investigation of the highest level of domestic and international narcotics traffickers. Established in 1973, this anti-drug agency combined the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD) and Customs’ drug agents to provide exclusive enforcement of federal drug laws. With the direct cooperation of our state and local partners, the creation of the Task Force Program is one of the most productive ways that DEA enforces these laws.
HISTORY OF THE PROGRAM
This cooperative effort between the DEA and local law enforcement agencies actually began in 1970, before the establishment of the DEA, with a pilot task force created in New York City by the former BNDD. The first task force was comprised of investigators from major state and local regional agencies, primarily the New York City Police Department and the New York State, along with BNDD personnel. Due to the complexity of drug problems in the region and the varied levels of drug trafficking, the New York City metropolitan area was ideal for federal, state, and local initiatives.
The success of the New York Task Force provided the impetus for a combined creation of DEA’s State and Local Task Force Program. As an inducement to participate, DEA began to pay investigative overtime for the state and local task force officers, as well as investigative expenses such as payments to informants, “buy money” to purchase contraband, undercover vehicles, and surveillance equipment. When State and Local Task Force funding was not available for new task forces. DEA Headquarters gave approval to establish an “informal” task force using existing divisional funds. Since these ad hoc task forces operated informally, no system existed to track their progress or to include them in DEA’s budget planning. Therefore, the Provisional Task Force Program was created as a way to plan ahead, using limited funding prudently.
The 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act institutionalized the DEA Task Force Program, replacing informality with formal procedures and appropriations. The relationship between DEA between and state and local task force participants is now formalized by a signed cooperative agreement, prepared by DEA’s Office of the Chief Counsel and signed by state or local chief executives and DEA officials. Although the task force officers were originally deputized for strictly state and local task forces (program funded or provisional task force categories), they now include deputizations for a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), and case specific situations.
The DEA State and Local Task Force Program provides a federal presence in sparsely populated areas where the DEA would not otherwise be represented. Combining federal leverage and the specialists available to the DEA with state and local officers’ investigative talents and detailed knowledge of their jurisdiction leads to highly effective drug law enforcement investigations.
WHY TASK FORCES?
As drug trafficking increased nationwide, DEA recognized the need for cooperation and coordination of drug enforcement efforts with their state and local counterparts. This cooperation provided several advantages to all participating agencies: DEA was able to draw on the expertise of state of local law enforcement; DEA could share resources with state and local officers, thereby increasing the investigative possibilities available to all; state and local officers could be deputized as federal drug agents, thus extending their jurisdiction; state and local participating agencies could receive an equitable share of forfeited drug proceeds; and DEA could pay overtime and investigative expenses for the state and local agencies.
TASK FORCES TODAY
In 2016, the DEA State and Local Task Force Program managed 271 state and local task forces, which included Program Funded, Provisional, HIDTA, and Tactical Diversion Squads. The difference between funded and provisional state and local task forces is that the financial support for funded task forces is provided by DEA headquarters and includes additional resources for state and local overtime. Provisional task forces are supported by the operating budgets of DEA field division offices, without resources from DEA headquarters, and do not included state and local overtime. These task forces are staffed by over 2,200 DEA special agents and over 2,500 state and local officers. Participating state and local task force officers are deputized to perform the same functions as DEA special agents.