The Times West Virginian

December 30, 2012

Police groups must work together for greater good

Times West Virginian

— A few weeks ago, the Harrison County sheriff chose to pull out of the Harrison County Drugs and Violent Crimes Task Force. It left the cities of Clarksburg and Bridgeport with the tough decision of what to do and how to fill the void.

The reason given for the departure was lack of communication.

That’s an all-too-familiar situation here in Marion County, which has been without a formal county-city drug task force for nearly four years now.

Does it mean drugs and violent crimes are rampant in the community? No, we believe the Fairmont Police Department and the Marion County Sheriff’s Department are fighting the good fight against drugs here in Marion County.

Do we think there needs to be an official task force with officers and deputies assigned to it in order to fight drugs and drug trafficking in Marion County?

No, but we need to communicate more effectively.

Case in point, Operation Blue Haze. The one-year undercover sting was a joint operation between the Fairmont Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The investigation recovered 21 firearms and $100,000 worth of drugs. The case yielded pistols, revolvers, rounds of ammunition, ballistics vests, crack cocaine, powder cocaine, marijuana and prescription pills. Those 52 individuals convicted through the investigation are responsible for more than 250 prior arrests.

It was as successful a sting as Fairmont has ever seen, and many repeat offenders, drug dealers and those carrying illegal firearms are off the streets.

The only problem is that Sheriff Joe Carpenter and his deputies were never told about the undercover operation. They knew something was going on because of information from confidential informants.

“We don’t need somebody getting hurt or somebody getting killed because somebody wants the glory of a drug arrest,” Carpenter told the Times West Virginian. “There is no communication. That’s the whole problem.”

Fairmont Police Chief Kelley Moran agrees.

“I’d like to see everybody, not just us and the sheriff’s department but the State Police and all the other smaller towns,” he said. “I’d like to see all of those work together.”

But as Jay Rogers, Fairmont city manager, pointed out, communication can be tough with different personalities trying to work together. He said that “the perfect scenario is to have all departments under one task force in the community,” but knows that not all personalities get along.

“I think we can understand that personalities and differences in philosophies sometimes will not allow that perfect situation to exist,” Rogers said.

So maybe representatives from each agency reporting to the same office every day doesn’t work. But there certainly needs to be a meeting of the minds to discuss how these departments can effectively communicate for the greater good that needs to happen.

Personalities can’t get in the way when it comes to officer and informant safety or the honorable mission of getting drug dealers off the street and drugs out of our community.

Do we need a task force? Maybe not. Do we need all police agencies to work together in some fashion, even if it’s just to let each other know what’s going on and to share critical information and data?

Most certainly.