Having weathered an investigation and a federal trial that ensnared one of its detectives, the Barren-Edmonson County Drug Task Force has emerged on the other side of the criminal proceeding with the detective having been acquitted and the agency on the verge of expanding into a third county.
The task force, which is based in Glasgow and investigates drug crimes in Barren and Edmonson counties, is poised to add Allen County as a partner.
Task force director Jeff Scruggs said the partnership has received approval from city and county government bodies in Allen County, and the final step of filing and registering paperwork, such as an interlocal agreement with the state, will officially add the third county to the agency.
“We’ve been working on this now for a couple of months,” Scruggs said. “I met with (Scottsville Police Department) Chief (Jeff) Pearson and (Allen County) Sheriff (Jeff) Cooke and they were very interested in getting into the task force and we were very interested in them coming in with us.”
Under the new arrangement, an officer from the Scottsville Police Department and the Allen County Sheriff’s Office would be assigned to the task force.
The sheriff’s offices in Barren and Edmonson counties currently supply detectives to the task force, and they are supplemented by detectives who are funded by Barren County.
Detectives would be moved among the three counties as needed, Scruggs said, adding that he expects the arrangement to mutually benefit the task force and the law enforcement agencies in Allen County, where task force detectives there can focus exclusively on drug crimes and thus free up other law enforcement to work the remaining cases.
“Rather than having a sheriff’s department tying up uniformed officers that should be out here taking care of domestic calls, you free up some of their time spent on drug complaints,” Scruggs said. “They’re benefiting by having more manpower added to their particular agency.”
Lately, task force detectives have seen a decrease in methamphetamine labs, and the arrests the agency has made often involve so-called shake-and-bake labs, where smaller batches of meth are made for personal use, Scruggs said.
Detectives, however, have been seizing more crystal meth, a purer form of the highly addictive drug that Scruggs said is often imported into the area from the western United States.
For Cooke, the partnership with the task force comes at the ideal time.
Law enforcement in Allen County investigate several cases involving either meth or prescription drugs, all while contending with limitations in manpower and finances.
Cooke said membership in the task force will enable investigators to access money collected from restitution and property forfeitures that can be used in undercover investigations.
“For a small agency such as ourselves, that benefits us all the way around,” Cooke said. “With buy money, we could easily be out anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 per buy ... we’ve had people to donate money, but being a small town, we’ve got a chosen few you can ask.”
The task force has been in existence for almost 10 years. In 2009, the Glasgow and Cave City police departments pulled their officers out of the unit, leading the county to step in and finance detectives in their place.
Last year, the agency received unwanted attention when Detective Eric Guffey was indicted by a federal grand jury. He was accused of civil rights violations and of making false statements to federal investigators in connection with a 2010 arrest of a suspect who federal prosecutors claimed was beaten by police after he was placed in handcuffs.
Adam Minor, a former Barren County sheriff’s deputy who was later assigned to the task force, pleaded guilty to making a false statement to federal investigators and testified against his co-defendants. Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton was convicted of two counts of witness tampering while Deputy Aaron Bennett was acquitted of all charges.
Guffey, who has worked on the task force for about four years, was found not guilty of all charges in a trial that concluded this month, and Scruggs testified at the trial about Guffey’s character and reputation for truthfulness.
“We’ve always had a good reputation as far as I’ve seen, and it was kind of hard on me when the task force was sitting there with people under indictment when we felt like, in our minds, they hadn’t done anything wrong,” Scruggs said. “I have every faith in (Guffey) that he didn’t do anything wrong.”