Havre Daily News
Recent changes to the Havre area anti-drug task force will mean more money and a more streamlined operation for the agency, a task force agent said.
FBI officials announced last week that the Tri-Agency Task Force will now be primarily funded by the federal government through the FBI's Safe Trails initiative, directed at drug crimes on reservations and in nearby communities. The task force has been renamed the Tri-Agency Safe Trails Task Force.
FBI Safe Trails funding will make up for cuts in the agency's funding, which largely came from federal grant money distributed to regional drug task forces by the state. Last year, that funding was cut by 43 percent, said the agent, who spoke under condition of anonymity because he does undercover law enforcement work.
The agent said this year's cut was projected to be 36 percent. That would have reduced the formerly three-member agency to a one-agent operation, he said.
The federal deputization on Thursday of five local law enforcment officers on the task force will streamline drug enforcement efforts on area Indian reservations, the agent said.
“It eliminates some of the red tape we have to jump through,” the agent said.
He said Tri-Agency's control board, made up of local law enforcement officials, will continue to oversee the task force's day-to-day operations.
The Rocky Boy's and Fort Belknap tribal governments are a part of the control board, and have signed agreements in the past that have let agents onto the reservations to investigate drug manufacture and distribution.
The agents now have the power to take those investigations directly to the U.S. State Attorney's Office, instead of using the FBI as an intermediary.
The FBI will now be represented on the control board, the agent said, along with the reservations, the Havre Police Department, and sheriffs in Hill, Blaine, Phillips, Chouteau, Liberty and Judith Basin counties.
The local member agencies will continue to pay a 30 percent match for the grant funding, he added, and five local agencies - the Hill and Blaine county sheriff's offices, the Havre Police Department, and Fort Belknap and Rocky Boy's tribal police - each have committed one full-time officer to narcotics work.
Money from the Safe Trails initiative will be used to pay for equipment, vehicles, office space, training, overtime and operational expenses.
“We're getting more manpower, more resources,” the agent said. “We'll have more authority to pursue our federal cases. It makes our arm a little longer.”