Havre Daily News
Federal officials today announced the reorganization and expansion of the Tri-Agency Task Force, a formerly state-run drug enforcement agency, into a federally run agency under the management of the FBI.
Five local law enforcement officers were deputized as federal agents in a ceremony this morning at Havre City Hall. The agents now have the federal jurisdiction needed to combat drug-related crime across the region, including on the Fort Belknap and Rocky Boy's Indian reservations.
FBI officials said the agency, now known as the Tri-Agency Safe Trails Task Force, will have added resources and coordination to combat drug manufacture and distribution.
“There's no question that this is the way to do it,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Tim Fuhrman, head of the bureau's Salt Lake City field office.
“It's very progressive thinking,” said FBI Supervisory Agent Ernie Weyand of Billings. “It's all about making your community safer.”
The agency will be primarily funded by the FBI, Fuhrman said. Federal money will be used for vehicles, office space, equipment, operations and training. Each agency - the Havre Police Department, Hill and Blaine county sheriff's offices, and Rocky Boy's and Fort Belknap law enforcement - has committed one full-time officer to the task force.
Weyand said he could not release details about the task force's funding.
Tribal law enforcement officials said the formation of the agency is exactly what is needed to combat drug problems on the reservations.
“I was really happy to find that we were able to join this,” Rocky Boy criminal investigator Grace Sage said. “Drugs have a real impact on our jobs on the reservation,” Fort Belknap criminal investigator Bob Ironmaker said.
Havre Police Chief Mike Barthel echoed their sentiments.
“These five men ... are joining forces with the FBI to combat what is a huge problem in our communities. This is a great day,” Barthel said.
The agency is the 12th of its kind in the country and third in the state. Safe Trails task forces are also located near the Fort Peck and Crow Indian reservations, Fuhrman said.
The Safe Trails initiative was organized specifically to combat drug manufacture and distribution in Indian Country, Fuhrman said.
Weyand said the task force will have the jurisdiction to work drug cases all along the Hi-Line, and will be able to follow those cases to other states if need be.