There's a new development involving the East Mississippi Drug Task Force. According to Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie, he has officially received a letter of consideration from Meridian Police Chief Benny Dubose to deputize two MPD officers to become agents with the agency.
Last September, the previous chief removed the city's only officer from the task force. On top of that, a grant to the agency was significantly reduced.
"We lost a major part of funding for about five personnel, that were cut," says Sollie. "We're anticipating that grant being eliminated totally this year. If we receive any funding it will be a surprise."
Because of that fact, Sheriff Sollie says once MPD officers return to the task force, the city will need to contribute more than it previously did to financially support the agency.
"There's constant need to upgrade or replace equipment such as body wires, cameras and surveillance equipment. So, we'll be working with the city to equally share this responsibility of replacing or enhancing our technology to identify and provide evidence to a grand jury."
In the past the city of Meridian paid a 25% match for the task force's grant. Aside from day-to-day costs, such as those for utilities, Sheriff Sollie says the price to analyze evidence is steep. For example, he says that each drug case has at least two to three pieces of evidence. The cost to process each of those is $50. With hundreds of drug cases handled each year, Sollie says the cost for processing evidence is staggering.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Sollie says he will present Chief Dubose's letter of consideration to supervisors at their first meeting in July. He's optimistic that approving those officers to work for the East Mississippi Drug Task Force will help reduce crime.
"Anytime you remove narcotics from the streets you're going to ease the burden of crime from a community."