Fort Worth police withdraw from federal drug trafficking task force. What does this mean?

·3 min read

The Fort Worth Police Department has removed its officers from participating in a Drug Enforcement Administration task force that is used to combat drug trafficking in North Texas.

When asked why the department is no longer participating in the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program, Lt. Christopher Daniels said that a decision was made last week after the department reviewed its memorandum of understanding with the DEA regarding their “joint efforts and how we work together.”

“We wanted to make sure we are observing best practices within the context of municipal policing and federal law enforcement,” Daniels wrote in an email. “3 officers will be temporarily reassigned until a mutually beneficial agreement is reached.”

A representative from the DEA declined to answer questions such as: What law enforcement agencies in North Texas participate in HIDTA? What reason did the Fort Worth Police Department give for withdrawing from HIDTA?

The HIDTA program was created by Congress in 1988 to target drug-trafficking regions in the country. There are 33 HIDTA task forces in the United States, including one in North Texas that covers an 11-county area.

The city is supposed to provide seven officers to the task force for a minimum of two years while the DEA assigns four of its own officers, according to the memorandum of understanding. The agreement was effective until September. Officers on the task force work specifically to combat “major narcotic violations” in the Fort Worth area.

The DEA funds equipment for the officers on the task force, which includes office space, supplies, travel funds, investigative equipment and training. Fort Worth is responsible for paying the salary, benefits and overtime of the officers assigned to the task force, according to the agreement.

Asked how this decision will affect drug investigations, Daniels said that the removal of the officers from HIDTA should not “have a significant impact upon the majority of such operations.” He added that FWPD will continue to “work together with other law enforcement agencies, including the DEA, whenever the circumstances of a particular case indicate this to be appropriate.”

Daniels said the decision was made on Nov. 10, but it’s unclear what initially sparked the decision or how long department leaders have been discussing the move.

In April, a source showed a Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter a copy of a text message that was sent by a ranked police official to a group of officers that said in part, “FWPD officers have been pulled from HIDA (sic) and DEA.”

When asked in April about the text, the department released a statement that said, “The FWPD has not made any decision to pull away from our federal partners. We are currently working with the DEA to more clearly establish Fort Worth PD’s role on the DEA task force.”

When questioned further about the text, a police representative said the person who sent it took “liberty with the message and made statements that are neither in line with our policies, nor was he authorized to make them.”

Assistant City Manager Jay Chapa said in an email, “The police chief made the recommendation along with the rationale on the decision and I agreed. The police department is responsible for crime fighting initiatives and practices.”

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