By Anthony Cloud
HIDTA Training Coordinator Micky Hatmaker, along with Roy Pace, addressed the Pineville City Council during the regular council meeting on Monday. Hatmaker spoke to the council about the national High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTAS) program to see if they were interested in making a commitment to be in a new Cumberland River Drug Task Force.
To be involved in the task force, Pineville would have to designate or hire an officer to take part in the task force. The only assignments that officer would have would be task force related. The officer would be a city employee, but HIDTA would pay overtime and other investigative expenses.
“If we fund overtime for a position, that position has to be dedicated to the HITDA task force,” said Hatmaker.
Hatmaker said they already have commitments from the Kentucky State Police, Middlesboro Police Department, Bell County Sheriff’s Department and Harlan Police Department. The Cumberland River Drug Task Force would be comprised of Bell, Harlan and Knox counties.
“Harlan Police Department will be the lead agency for the Cumberland River Drug Task Force and will employ retired KSP Trooper Roy Pace as Task Force Commander,” Hatmaker said.
The council tabled the topic to a further discussion.
The HIDTA program was created by Congress with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. It provides assistance to federal, state and local agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States.
“When it initially started it was the federal government’s way of trying to help with the drug problem,” said Hatmaker.
Hatmaker said the HIDTA program is designed to hit the areas with big drug problems.
“In order to get designated as a HIDTA area you had to show how your part of the country impacted the rest of the country,” said Hatmaker.
The Appalachia HIDTA was designated in 1998 as a marijuana HIDTA and became a poly drug HIDTA in 2002. It operates on the task force model and funds about 30 task forces in four states (Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia and Virginia).
Hatmaker said there are 28 HIDTAs across the nation. The task forces are comprised of a partnership between state, local and federal agencies all co-located and working as a team.
“When we walk into these offices that we go to in four states, you can’t tell a DEA agent from a local police officer,” said Hatmaker. “They all have the same authority.”
According to Hatmaker, each HIDTA assesses the drug trafficking threat in its defined area for the upcoming year, develops a strategy to address that threat, designs initiatives to implement the strategy, propose funding needed to carry out the initiatives and prepares an annual report describing its performance the previous year.
Hatmaker said HIDTA is designed for upper level drug trafficking organizations.
“HIDTA is not designed for the guy selling two pills on the corner,” said Hatmaker.
HIDTA funds have been budgeted to cover the following expenses for the Cumberland River Drug Task Force: overtime for officers, funds for purchase of evidence/purchase of information, equipment for operations of task force, training, investigative travel and other miscellaneous items.
“HIDTA officials are thrilled with the level of cooperation that we have received from local police agencies,” Hatmaker said.
Anthony Cloud can be contacted at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN.