Scrutiny Of Drug Force Is Long OverdueAs a concerned...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

January 02, 1994

Scrutiny Of Drug Force Is Long Overdue

As a concerned citizen and life-long resident of Carroll County, I am heartened to see that Carroll County Commissioner Julia W. Gouge is finally taking a long-overdue look at the often questionable practices . . . of the so-called Carroll County Drug Task Force.

Aside from its "creative" handling of moneys from properties, vehicles, etc., which it confiscates under often unusual and sometimes outrageous circumstances, I, for one, question the overall efficacy, judgment and even competence of the task force.

. . . How many thousands of taxpayer dollars did the ultimately pointless prosecution (some would say "persecution") of Pamela Snowhite Davis cost us? And what, if anything did it gain or prove in the long run, except to assuage Assistant State's Attorney Barton Walker's out-of-control, oversized ego?

The drug task force's effectiveness immediately comes into question when one merely weighs its budget and expended man-hours against the relatively minimal quantity of drugs it has intercepted. (The task force seems to specialize in penny ante "busts" of a half-ounce of marijuana or less.) For the task force to take credit for staunching the flow of illegal drugs into Carroll County is, to turn a cliche, like the strutting rooster taking credit for the sun coming up in the morning. . . . Ultimately, the Carroll County Drug Task Force's main objective appears to be the advancing of the political careers of its principal members. And I think the task force's worst transgression is creating a smoke screen (particularly by way of the Carroll County Times' slavish, unquestioning reportage of its "victories") of complacency in this county by pandering to the county's more conservative and ill-formed citizenry and creating the false impression the drug use and related violent crimes in the county are on the wane, largely due to the task force's procedures. (Every indication I've seen is that the opposite is true.) . . .

Further, I feel the mere fact that the task force's often clownish, bumbling tactics (to wit, the entire Davis affair) have been allowed to go on unmonitored for so long makes Carroll County look embarrassingly parochial (much like the county commissioners' recent decision to turn down state funds for landscaping and beautifying that horrid stretch of Route 140 near Westminster. . . .) Certainly, I have no proof that the drug task force -- whose objectives are noble, but whose practices have been sullied by ineffectiveness and the taint of inequity -- is guilty of corruption or of using its autonomy for self-serving political ends. (To wit, the case of former state senatorial candidate Jeff Griffith, who was conveniently targeted and publicly embarrassed by the task force at the height of his campaign.)

Yet given the many surface indications of underlying improprieties, I am surprised it has taken this long for the task force's dubious means and methods to come under scrutiny from a higher level of government.

The war on drugs is a serious matter in the United States -- perhaps the most serious facing our nation. But it will only worsen if we address it with the sort of Band-Aid solutions, public relations' smoke screens and "Keystone Kops"-style methodology like those the task force has specialized in. As it now stands, the Carroll County Drug Task Force not only isn't the solution, it's come to be part of the problem.

Bob Allen

Eldersburg

When It Reins

I note that Baltimore, the city that (barely) reads, is served by XTC The Sun, the newspaper that (seldom) proofreads. Your correspondent, Carl M. Cannon, knows not the distinction between "rein" and "reign." So he speaks of President Clinton's attempts to "reign in" entitlement programs (Dec. 12.) It is not enough to condemn Mr. Cannon for this small but telling malapropism. Both his editor who failed to edit him and the schools that failed educate him also deserve censure.

It is no surprise to find egregious errors in substance as well. Mr. Cannon perpetuates the pernicious confusion between welfare programs funded out of the treasury and entitlement programs which are self-funded. The confusion is deliberate on the part of the politicians; they would have us believe that fully funded social insurance programs financed through a dedicated payroll tax contribute to the deficit.

They would confuse these earned right (entitlement) social insurance programs with deficit-producing welfare programs like Medicaid, Head Start and Aid to Families with Dependent Children. The reporter can point out the distinction between true entitlements and welfare without taking sides on any issue. But how can the reporter be expected to understand these distinctions if he does not know the difference between rein and reign?

We make much of quality control these days. Mr. Cannon's work exhibits defects in both form and substance. Could we expect more careful review of his work in the future?

John R. Culleton Jr.

Sykesville

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