LAKELAND — The cliché “strength in numbers” has been proven true for more than 20 years in the combined efforts of law-enforcement agencies of the South Georgia Drug Task Force, but another cliché, “divided we fall,” may ring true as the task force’s commander stated the group will disband on or by Dec. 31 of this year.
The same thing that made the task force attractive to rural lawenforcement agencies was the same thing that brought on its demise. It was finances, said Task Force Cmdr. Bahan Rich.
“The solution to all this is funding. It’s just a dollars and cents issues,” said Rich. “Until more funds arrive, from wherever they may come, then the task force will not exist.”
The task force’s federal funding was cut by 55 percent, said Rich. The grants that fund the majority of our budget are federal, but they funneled down through the State of Georgia through the latest cut, Rich said.
“In the past, it was attractive for smaller agencies to put in a little money into the task force in order to gain access to a larger amount of equipment and services,” said Rich. “But with this large reduction in our funding, it’s not as good an offer to these agencies as it was in the past. Plus, couple that with the fact that many other funding requirements have been pushed down to the local level.”
The Dec. 31 deadline allots the task force time to complete its investigations, before forwarding over to the district attorney’s office for prosecution. Rich wanted to stress that the task force was not dropping any cases and said the group would prepare and transmit cases for prosecution as normal.
The task force’s control board members will decide how its assets will be divided among member agencies, Rich said.
The task force was composed of law-enforcement agencies from the Cook County Sheriff ’s Office, Adel Police Department, Lenox Police Department, Berrien County Sheriff ’s Department, Echols County Sheriff ’s Office, Lanier County Sheriff ’s Office, Clinch County Sheriff ’s Office, Homerville Police Department and several other regional agencies.
“We want to thank the citizens of the areas we have worked in for their cooperation,” said Rich. “We also thank the agents that we worked with. They are fine people, we are proud to work with them.”