Mallory Herrmann

The Jackson County Drug Task Force doesn’t get a lot of coverage in the media. A team of covert and undercover officers from agencies across the county, they generally prefer it that way.

But over the years, they’ve found success as a unit, as an example of countywide cooperation and as an outstanding investigative agency in the region.

The Jackson County Drug Task Force (JCDTF) was formally established in 1986 to combat drug problems in the county. It’s currently funded through COMBAT, the Community Backed Anti-Drug Tax, which is a Jackson County quarter-cent sales tax that generates more than $20 million each year for a variety of anti-crime initiatives.

The task force uses resources from 12 area police departments, including the departments in Lee’s Summit, Lake Lotawana, Greenwood and Raytown, as well as the county sheriff’s department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol. 29 investigative and clerical personnel are assigned to the unit.

JCDTF has just two main objectives: responding to drug problems that pose an immediate threat to the community and providing long-range analysis of drug-related problems in order to more effectively police them.

Captain Dan Cummings, officer-in-charge for the JCDTF, says the drug problems the county sees aren’t ones “we can arrest our way out of.” He knows the challenges are complex, including addiction.

“If you’re an addict, we want to get you off it, get treatment,” Cummings says.

But they also want to know who’s supplying you.

Cummings doesn’t want to participate in fear-mongering: it’s not his intention to create anxiety or panic. But he also says there’s a lot happening below the surface that people just don’t know about.

He describes the drug cartels as organized, professionally run organizations. Their employees are tested to ensure they’re not using the drugs they’re selling. They have regular calls to discuss sales trends and product quality. Their personnel are embedded in communities, including Jackson County.

“They work hard. They’re sending money back home,” Cummings says.

But he says it’s the task force’s job to make it difficult for them to make a profit here. The task force is there watching, keeping the cartels looking over their shoulder.

And they’re succeeding. The task force is regularly engaged in months-long and multi-year investigations into drug-trafficking organizations operating in the area. When they make successful arrests, they leverage that information to track larger trafficking networks and higher members of the cartels – rather than celebrating those wins publicly.

The task force operates on an annual budget of about $2 million from COMBAT revenues. Cummings knows that while they don’t often attract publicity, they’re still accountable to the taxpayers who fund their work and that it’s these funds that allow the task force to pursue higher-level investigations.

“We’re spending your money and we’re spending your money exactly how we’re supposed to,” he says.

The officers assigned to the task force are cross-commissioned to be able to cross state lines in pursuit of federal cases. They often sacrifice time with their families, sometimes working 24- and 48-hour shifts to further an investigation. The task force regularly collaborates with agencies throughout the metro area, including the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Homeland Security.

In 2017, JCDTF was part of the Kansas City FBI Combined Task Force that was awarded Outstanding Investigative Effort by the Midwest HIDTA (High Intensity Trafficking Area program, a federal enforcement program).

JCDTF also received the 2017 Outstanding Cooperative Effort award, the second year in a row that they’ve received this award. The regional award was nominated for 2017 national recognition.

The investigation for which they received the award resulted in the federal indictment of 40 defendants on 73 drug and firearms charges, as well as the seizure of 210 pounds of methamphetamine and 14 handguns.

JDCTF has also been recognized as Law Enforcement Unit of the Year by the Missouri Narcotics Association in five of the last seven years.

The task force includes the police departments of Blue Springs, Buckner, Grain Valley, Grandview, Greenwood, Independence, Lake Lotawana, Lee’s Summit, Lone Jack, Oak Grove, Raytown, and Sugar Creek. The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, Missouri State Highway Patrol, and Missouri National Guard also supply personnel and support to the task force.