MUSTANG grant more limited

Mid-Missouri’s MUSTANG Task Force received a new $100,705 federal grant this year.

But, Cole County commissioners were told Wednesday morning, that’s enough to pay only for the personnel costs, while previous grants also have helped pay for utilities, rental costs and other office expenses for the task force, which focuses on investigating and reducing drug crimes.

“This is money that we’ve been using since before I was sheriff,” Sheriff Greg White told the three-member commission. “As the years go by, the feds are going to be supporting this less and less.”

The MUSTANG Task Force — Mid-Missouri Unified Strike Team and Narcotics Group — operates in three Mid-Missouri counties, and includes the Jefferson City, Fulton, Columbia and Boonville police departments as well as the sheriffs in Cole, Callaway, and Boone counties.

White told the News Tribune on Wednesday the grant funding also has been used in the past for “buy money” and “expense money” as part of ongoing investigations.

“If the state doesn’t pick that portion up, it’s going to really hamper narcotics enforcement in this area and in this region,” he said. “If you don’t have ‘buy money,’ it means we have to make dramatic reductions in what we can purchase.

“And to make effective narcotics cases, you’re making more than one buy from an individual.”

That’s how prosecutors can make better cases in court, White said, “showing the person not only is predisposed (to sell drugs) but predisposed to multiple sales.”

The money doesn’t come back to the task force, the sheriff added, noting federal law requires any money recovered during an arrest and conviction to be returned to the federal system.

“If it doesn’t involve the feds, (any money recovered) goes back to the state system and, honestly, supports education.”

White told Cole County’s commissioners the federal government today likely “spends more on training police officers in Iraq than they do in the U.S.,” and he doesn’t expect that picture to improve.

“We used to have a tremendous amount of free training, housing, food and the training itself — all we did was pay for the travel from here to Iowa,” he said.

“And most of that money is gone — it has been dramatically reduced for the training centers across the United States.”

The federal budget situation makes increasing the available grant money in the future more unlikely, White said.

The sheriff repeated his frequent admonition that local governments also need to be looking at ways to improve mental health services at the local and regional level — because federal funds also won’t be available to help.

“Our jails are becoming a repository for the mentally ill. Many times, people are using street drugs to control co-occurring mental illness,” White said, “and that grouping of people, eventually, are going to commit other crimes, that are going to draw the attention of law enforcement.

“Whether it’s burglaries or thefts or robberies, eventually they’re going to end up being incarcerated because they have an untreated mental illness.”

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