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Hubbard County, city cops to join new drug task force

A burgeoning number of drug tips has prompted Hubbard County to explore joining the West Central Minnesota Narcotic Task Force.

The force is comprised of 26 counties and city police departments.

"The drug action is definitely not slowing down," Homer said. "We want to be proactive."

Statistics released to the county board would seem to indicate drug cases are on the decline. In 2008, the West Central Task Force investigated 188 cases resulting in 127 arrests. In 2009, 150 cases yielded 122 arrests.

So far in 2010, the task Force has been involved in 30 first quarter cases, making 28 arrests. Thirteen of those cases came from neighboring Wadena County and city. Hubbard County has had no drug cases to date in 2010.

County Attorney Don Dearstyne is currently reviewing a joint powers agreement and if approved, Hubbard County could become the group's latest member.

Homer estimates it would cost Hubbard County and Park Rapids around $2,000 or less annually to join, money that would come from the drug forfeiture fund.

However, neither the city nor county would contribute an officer to the task force initially.

"We're pretty bare bones now," Homer told the Hubbard County board Wednesday. "We might explore a drug officer in the future."

Hubbard County belonged to the Paul Bunyan Drug Task Force until former Sheriff Gary Mills had that agreement dissolved years ago.

Dearstyne said there were some missteps related to that group.

A former Hubbard County drug officer, J.T. Harris and other agents, led a drug raid on a mobile home that turned out to be the wrong residence.

Dearstyne said the county had to settle a civil suit filed by the home's occupants.

Harris resigned from the sheriff's department earlier this spring to pursue a job in the southern United States where he's originally from, the sheriff told the county board.

Homer said the county still maintains good ties with the Paul Bunyan group and has given it permission to investigate cases in the north end of the county, while the West Central group will work drug cases in the southern end of the county.

The joint powers agreement with the Paul Bunyan group is no longer in existence, but Homer said those agents will voluntarily work in the region.

"Both ends of the county will be covered and covered pretty well," Homer said.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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