Drug Task Force Wins Two Awards
Joe Loudon • COMBAT Communications Administrator
FRIDAY, JULY 21, 2023
If you’re conducting undercover investigations, you can’t afford to have a spotlight shined on you. Therefore, even when the Jackson County Drug Task Force wins two awards, its officer-in-charge, Dan Cummings, is almost hesitant to accept.
“We are a covert law enforcement unit, which is A) the best way to investigate the crimes we do and B) the worst if you’re someone wanting a lot of credit,” Cummings said recently. “I certainly don’t want any photographs of my investigators. I still don’t like being photographed myself, but I guess I have to be the face—such as it is—of the Jackson County Drug Task Force.”
Cummings tried to shy away from the cameras when accepting, on behalf of the Task Force, first the Missouri Narcotics Officers Association (MNOA) 2022 Law Enforcement Unit of the Year award, then the U.S. Department of Justice’s 2022 Outstanding Investigative Effort award for the Midwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). The Jackson County Drug Task Force has now earned the MNOA award six times in the last 12 years; Cummings was also named MNOA Law Enforcement Officer of the Year in 2014.
AWARD COLLECTION The Missouri Narcotics Officers Associaton awards the Jackson County Drug Task Force has earned in the last 12 years.
Despite these accolades, the Task Force remains a relatively well-kept secret in Jackson County.
“We don’t publicize everything we do,” said Cummings. “We can’t, and we don’t want to. Therefore, we aren’t that well known to the public we’re serving.”
‘A Force Multiplier’
The Task Force receives most of its funding from COMBAT, but actually was formed years before the anti-crime tax was originally passed in 1989. Today, detectives and other personnel from 12 Eastern Jackson County police departments and the Sheriff’s Office are assigned to the Task Force.
“The Task Force is a very valuable resource to the smaller (law enforcement) agencies in Jackson County that lack the resources to handle large-scale drug cases,” Lone Jack Police Chief Tim Cosner pointed out. “Many of these agencies sit on major highways or interstates that make them convenient locations to set up drug trafficking operations. Over the years the Jackson County Drug Task Force has assisted the Lone Jack Police Department with several situations where we lacked the resources needed to properly work a case.”
Grain Valley Police Chief Ed Turner said his department frequently calls on the Task Force: “They’re truly a force multiplier and allow the Grain Valley Police Department to better serve the citizens in our city.”
‘The Middle Of The Universe’
While providing crucial support for local police departments, the Drug Task Force has also, over the last several years, become a vital partner for federal law enforcement agencies seeking to disrupt the operations of Mexican cartels.
“We are in the middle of the universe, as far as drug trafficking in the United States is concerned—literally right in the middle,” Cummings said. “You’ve got I-35 running south to north, I-70 east to west. Shipments are going to come through Kansas City.
“You want to talk about organized crime?” he continued. “These are organized international operations.”
During the 1990s, the Task Force played an integral part in shutting down most local meth lab operations in Jackson County. At that time, those addicted to the drug would often run the labs, selling what meth they didn’t keep for personal use. The local supply for meth was disrupted, but cartels stepped in to meet the demand and, according to Cummings, “can produce meth on a grander scale than any local lab could have ever dreamt of—and for pennies on the dollar, comparatively.”
The cartels are “constantly evolving,” Cummings added, growing poppy to produce heroin and cannabis for ongoing illegal marijuana sales. But the most dangerous evolution so far has been the increasing use of the synthetic opioid fentanyl, which has become one of the leading causes of lethal overdoses in the United States.
“There are people who’d never shoot heroin into their veins or smoke pot or crack, but they will take an M30 pill,” Cummings said. “And it’s now more likely than not that pill will be laced with fentanyl. But we’re at a point where people are wanting fentanyl. They need it. They’re hooked on the potency.”
He stressed that often times “the frontline dealers are even sure if what they’re selling has fentanyl in it or not.”
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‘Service Benefits Entire Metropolitan Area’
Among the evolutions the Task Force has made over last five years is seeing its mission as going beyond law enforcement and being a key part of COMBAT Prevention. Unlike the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or FBI, the Task Force not only measures drug seizures in terms of their overall weight—pounds or kilograms—but in terms of how many doses it is preventing from being sold in Jackson County.
Independence Police Adam Dustman credits the Task Force with expanding the scope of its focus beyond just drug crimes:
For Independence, the JCDTF serves as an integral part of our overall efforts to address crime in our community. The investigative resources and follow‐up help by the members of the Task Force cannot be understated. Contrary to their name, and initial purpose, the Task Force has evolved into a true asset in overall crime reduction, with an emphasis on both illegal narcotic investigations and the expanded focus on violent crime. These often long‐term and resource-intensive investigations would put a strain on existing police department resources, if not for the Task Force model.
The Task Force is a dedicated and highly skilled group of officers, whose service benefits the entire metropolitan area.
|Horrifying Amount Of Fentanyl Seized|
Enough Seized For Potentially Millions Of Lethal Doses
An investigation that the Jackson County Drug Task Force and federal Homeland Security officials initiated more two years ago has culminated in 39 defendants being indicted for their roles in a conspiracy to distribute more than 335 kilograms (738½ pounds) of methamphetamine and 22 kilograms (48½ pounds) of heroin. Especially alarming was the amount of fentanyl also seized: 10.4 kilograms (22.9 pounds), enough for millions—literally millions—of potentially lethal doses.”
» 'DEADLY' DRUGS KEPT OFF STREETS
When Jackson County’s voters were considering whether or not to approve a sales tax dedicated to reducing drug abuse and drug-related crime in 1989, the then Blue Springs Police Chief, Howard Brown, warned the county’s Drug Task Force might be dissolved without an infusion of local funding. The Task Force’s federal and state grants were set to expire at the end of ’89.
Today, COMBAT funding enables the Jackson County Drug Task Force to engage in wide-ranging investigations not possible in most other counties—in Missouri or across the nation.
“There’s no other task force like ours in the state of Missouri,” said Jackson County Drug Task Force Officer-in-Charge Dan Cummings. “We’re out of the norm, which is a good thing. If other counties have task forces, they’re much smaller, have fewer resources and are operated out of the sheriff’s office, focused mostly on the unincorporated areas of the county—where fewer people live.
“Because of COMBAT we’ve got the resources to work these cases with 10 to 15 detectives surveilling one drug dealer, if necessary. We have enough buy money. It’s hard to present yourself as a big-time dealer when you’re always trying to negotiate down the price. These dealers can smell a fake from a mile away.
“Again, COMBAT gives our task force the resources we need to be a difference maker.”