Drug squad future very much in doubt - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Drug squad future very much in doubt

April 6, 2007

Camilla --  A Mitchell County grand jury's recommendation that the county withdraw from the Southwest Georgia Drug Task Force, which serves Mitchell, Baker and Grady counties, surprised many people.   The final decision will be made by the county commission.  

The building that houses the Southwest Georgia Drug Task Force seems quiet, nondescript.  The agents who work behind this door though stay busy all the time.  "We've made a little over 4,000 arrests over the last 16, 17 years since the task force has been here," said interim commander Keith Newman.

Arrests and convictions of drug dealers of all levels have helped clean up the streets in Mitchell, Baker and Grady counties.  But Newman says they continue to battle the drug problem in all of these communities. 

He got news of a possible shift in the task force's future on Wednesday. "The recommendation was for Mitchell County to pull out of the Southwest Georgia Drug Task Force, multi-jurisdiction, and form its own Mitchell County Drug Task Force."

The recommendation calls for a Mitchell County force to include the Camilla and Pelham police departments, but both departments already work with the drug task force, and even contribute financially.  The proposed task force would be under the supervision of the Mitchell County sheriff, but Sheriff W. E. Bozeman refused to comment. 

Newman says he doesn't know what will happen to his agents. "I would hope that Mitchell County would ask for some to stay on if it comes to that point."

Mitchell and Grady counties each contribute around $120,000, with Baker giving a little over $20,000 to fund the task force.  They also get a $284,000 federal grant. If Mitchell County pulls out, all the federal money will be lost.

"I really don't know what would happen.  I would assume that Grady County would continue to fight the drug problem the best way they could.  Of course Mitchell County would too, and Baker County."

Newman questions the reason for the recommendation but is staying positive. "At this time, we're full speed ahead; we're not going to stop doing our job, we're gonna continue to give a hundred, hundred and fifty percent until we hear otherwise."

Mitchell County must give 90 days notice before July 1st if they decide to pull out.  That time limit has already lapsed, so if they do leave, it won't be this year.  

The county commissioners meet this Tuesday to discuss the grand jury's recommendation.  County officials say they don't think the commissioners will make an immediate decision.

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