Mid-Missouri law enforcement faces funding crisis

The MUSTANG Drug Task Force is facing a funding crisis that could undermine Law Enforcement's ability to curtail the drug trade in Missouri.

From conducting undercover investigations to serving search warrants, the Central Missouri MUSTANG Drug Task Force has had a busy 2014, arresting dozens of suspected drug dealers. However, the Callaway County Sheriff said the task force is facing a dire financial situation.

"I wouldn't say we have control of it," said Sheriff Dennis Crane. "We'll fight the fight we can, and continue to fight that fight. I think we'll do that no matter what happens."

Crane said fighting drugs begins with "buy money" usually supplied to the agency through state or federal law enforcement grants. After undercover agents make drug deals, the task force may obtain a search warrant. From there, law enforcement can make an arrest or a drug seizure.

Captain John Wheeler a steady decline in funding has reduced the amount of buy money that is available for the task force to use. Less buy money, he says, means fewer undercover transactions and ultimately fewer arrests.

"It hurts," Wheeler said. "It hurts us a lot because it takes money away from other programs, other people we could be funding."

Captain Wheeler said since 2009, the amount of money in Justice Assistance Grants has been on a decline. For 2011-2012, MUSTANG received a $216,606.29 Federal JAG Grant. For 2012-2013, they received $151,140.96.

For 2013-2014, the MUSTANG Drug Task Force received $100,705.16, plus a $2,711.50 state JAG grant, $103,416.66 in total. Sheriff Crane said that is far less than they have historically received. Crane said overall funding for MUSTANG Drug Task Force has decreased by around 60% since he became Sheriff in 2001.

Without that money, Wheeler said they are unable to make upgrades and equipment purchases, leaving them do fight crime with outdated equipment.

Crane said the burden of funding MUSTANG officers has shifted from the federal to the local level. "If you look at cuts in government and stuff like that, more have come back on the local level," Crane said. "More funding responsibility for local government. The states cut back, the federal government cuts back their Federal tax monies, so more is put on us."

For 2013-2014, Crane said they requested a 75-25% match on Federal JAG funds. Their request was for $304,771.53 which would have covered salaries, benefits, overtime, overtime benefits, and supplies.

However, what the government approved was much different. The approved version of the grant included money for salaries and benefits, but no money for overtime, overtime benefits, or supplies. The final figure was more than $100,000 less than what the agency had originally asked for.

"Now we're up to paying over 50 percent. It's been steadily changing and now they're talking about more cuts. It makes me wonder when is it going to change?" Crane said.

Wheeler and Crane said they both expect the task force to lose more money in the future.

"With the federal government, unfortunately, it's become that there are politics all the time. There is politics involved in it, yes, I am sure there is," Wheeler said.