East Metro Drug En­force­ment Team: 1990 - 2007

Coun­ties to han­dle own in­ves­ti­ga­tions

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - By Tyler Smith

Law en­force­ment of­fi­cials have voted to dis­band the East Metro Drug En­force­ment Team af­ter 17 years of fight­ing the war on drugs.

The task force con­sisted of in­ves­ti­ga­tors from Cov­ing­ton, New­ton County, Cony­ers and Rock­dale County.

Cov­ing­ton Chief of Po­lice Stacey Cot­ton said sev­eral fac­tors led to the move, in­clud­ing a cut in fund­ing, a change in mis­sion and the growth of the two coun­ties in­volved in the pro­gram.

“ The team served us well for years, but with the in­creased pop­u­la­tion, we de­cided we could bet­ter in­ves­ti­gate in our own ar­eas,” Cot­ton said.

In 1990, when EMDET was first formed, the group was is­sued a grant of $ 225,600 from the Ed­ward Byrne Me­mo­rial Jus­tice As­sis­tance Grant Pro­gram, which was dis­sem­i­nated through the Ge­or­gia Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Co­or­di­nat­ing Coun­cil. In the late 1990s, that fig­ure had in­creased to over $ 300,000, said EMDET Com­man­der Lt. Philip Brad­ford.

But in re­cent years, Cot­ton said, the grant had been cut as money be­gan to be shifted from the war on drugs to

Home­land Se­cu­rity and the war on ter­ror. EMDET’s last grant of $ 177,000 was not enough to op­er­ate ef­fec­tively, Cot­ton said.

Greg Shy, pres­i­dent of New­ton Reads and a com­mu­nity ac­tivist, said it was a shame the gov­ern­ment did not think lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties were worth more.

“ That’s pol­i­tics though,” Shy said. “ It’s bad that we don’t have the funds to fight what’s go­ing on right here in our own area. With the pop­u­la­tion growth up and the crime rate up, we need help more than ever.”

Guide­lines of the grant also stip­u­lated the money only be used for drug in­ves­ti­ga­tions, which was be­com­ing more of an is­sue for the agency. Cot­ton said EMDT’s in­ves­ti­ga­tions of­ten un­cov­ered other crimes which the unit could not fol­low and had to be turned over to other lo­cal agen­cies.

EMDET board of direc­tors mem­bers Cot­ton, New­ton County Sher­iff Joe Nichols, Rock­dale County Sher­iff Jeff Wig­ing­ton, Cony­ers Chief of Po­lice David Cath­cart, New­ton County Dis­trict At­tor­ney Ken Wynne and Rock­dale County Dis­trict At­tor­ney Richard Read at­tended the press con­fer­ence to an­nounce the de­ci­sion. Cot­ton said the board voted in July to shut down the nar­cotics unit.

“ I think we’re clos­ing one chap­ter but open­ing an­other,” Cot­ton said. “ This is tak­ing it to the next step.”

That next step will be the for­ma­tion of two new units.

The Cov­ing­ton Po­lice De­part­ment and the New­ton County Sher­iff ’s Of­fice have formed a yet to be named un­der­cover unit which will fo­cus on drugs as well as gangs, or­ga­nized crime and pros­ti­tu­tion.

“ We are very ex­ited to move for­ward with this new unit and to be able to cover things we haven’t been able to cover be­fore,” said Brad- ford, the unit’s com­man­der.

The unit will con­sist of six agents ini­tially, but more could be added as nec­es­sary. The agents have al­ready been se­lected and should be­gin in­ves­ti­ga­tions soon, Brad­ford said.

“ I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate the op­por­tu­nity by the board to lead this unit,” Brad­ford said.

EMDET used mostly un­der­cover work and con­fi­den­tial in­for­mants in their in­ves­ti­ga­tions; a trend which Brad­ford said will carry over into the new unit’s bag of tools.

“ We’ll be used for any spe­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tion that might re­quire un­der­cover work,” Brad­ford said.

The Rock­dale County Sher­iff ’s Of­fice and the Cony­ers Po­lice De­part­ment will also form a sim­i­lar task force, Wig­ing­ton said

De­spite the sep­a­ra­tion of the two units, Cot­ton said a strong re­la­tion­ship still re­mained.

“ Just be­cause we are go­ing to do our own thing, it doesn’t mean we won’t have a re­la­tion­ship with Rock­dale and Cony­ers,” he said. “ We rec­og­nize that the bad guys don’t pay at­ten­tion to ju­ris­dic­tion.”

At its heighth, the EMDET em­ployed agents from not only New­ton County, Cov­ing­ton, Rock­dale County and Cony­ers, but also from Wal­ton County, Butts County, Lo­ganville and Mon­roe, Cot­ton said. Agents from the Ge­or­gia Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion and Na­tional Guard were also posted to the unit.

Wig­ing­ton said the unit was viewed for a long time by agen­cies in the state as a model or­ga­ni­za­tion, but the agency had run its course.

In its 17 year ex­is­tence, the EMDET han­dled 2,724 cases while em­ploy­ing 68 agents and 585 con­fi­den­tial in­for­mants.

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