'Donated by a Dope Dealer'
|Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor|
May 1, 2004 -- Sulphur Springs Police Department added six new vehicles to its fleet of patrol units and purchased much needed equipment to help better equip SWAT team members for tactical situations, all thanks to drug dealers.
No the police department is not taking direct contributions and donations from drug dealers, but drug traffickers are indirectly responsible for the new equipment police purchased to assist enforcement and interdiction efforts.
The more than $100,000 worth of items were all bought with funds seized by the police department's narcotics interdiction officers during drug-related offenses and attained for law enforcement purposes thanks to the district attorney's efforts through the legal system to see that the items were forfeited and retained locally.
"The police department and the city benefited greatly from the efforts of Sgt. Buddy Williams and his canine partner Timmie and Cpl. Jason Ricketson and canine Sony in their interdiction efforts," SSPD Chief Jim Bayuk said Friday following the official addition of the new vehicles into the fleet. "It's very gratifying to be able to buy six brand new vehicles to be used in the criminal investigation division, the DARE [Drug Awareness and Resistance Education] program which is a partnership of the police department with Douglas Intermediate School and Sulphur Springs Middle School, and animal control efforts. The saying on the back of the DARE vehicle says 'Donated by a dope dealer.' We purchased these items using funds originally destined to buy narcotics. So in a way you could say the drug dealers stopped here made a very large donation to Sulphur Springs. We were fortunate to be able to take that money through seizure and forfeiture proceedings and benefit law enforcement."
The four 2004 model vehicles purchased for the CID included a Jeep Grand Cherokee, a Chevrolet Silverado extended cab half-ton pickup, a Chevrolet Tahoe and a Chevrolet Impala Sedan. Lt. Rusty Stillwagoner, and Sgts. David Gilmore, James McCaskey and Monty Tipps were each assigned one of the vehicles. DARE officer Jay Sanders will be driving the 2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser while Animal Control Officer Gary Attaway will benefit from the new 2004 Chevrolet Silverado extended cab long wheel base pickup purchase for the animal control program.
"That's $100,000 worth vehicles purchased with the drug money and assigned to individual officers," Bayuk said. "Generally when you have only one officer assigned to a vehicle, they're more likely to make sure its well maintained. They tend to be more aware of its needs, when it needs to be serviced or have the oil change or things like that and take care of it. So, hopefully we'll have these vehicles in service for a long time."
Overall, the funds seized by the two police interdiction officers also benefited Hopkins County Sheriff's Office. They were awarded $15,306.60 of the total forfeited while the district attorney's office also received a percentage of the overall claim to help with expenses incurred by the staff.
"The district attorney's office aggressively pursues forfeitures for law enforcement... We're very fortunate to have [District Attorney] Frank Long and [Assistant District Attorneys] Martin Braddy and Tim Long over there, they do such a good job, and Cindy Duffer who is assigned to and handles most of this stuff. Without them this wouldn't be possible. We stop them, make the seizures, do all the paperwork and take it over to the DA's office where we turn it over to them. It usually takes a good long time, as in this instance, but because of the efforts of interdiction officers and the district attorney's office were benefited from $100,000 of money originally destined for drugs and were able to purchase vehicles solely using dope money the narcotics officers got through drug interdiction. Their efforts in interdiction are paramount to getting narcotics off the street and also hitting on currency to pay for police efforts," Bayuk said.
Sulphur Springs Independent School District Assistant Superintendent Patsy Bolton, Douglas Intermediate School Principal Tona Sue Hudson, SSMS Principal Kevin Woolley and six active DARE students from Douglas joined CID, animal control and other police officials Friday morning at Coleman Park for the official installation of the six new vehicles to SSISD's fleet.
"The police department and school district take great pride in the DARE program. It's a 50-50 project between the police and SSISD," Bayuk added.