Work to present a fully unified front on the Harvey County Drug Task Force continues, as Newton Police Chief Eric Murphy, Harvey County Sheriff Chad Gay and Undersheriff Shawn Chapman approached the Council of Governments (representing all Harvey County communities) last week with a proposed agreement for full countywide participation.
The proposal brought forth by the two entities responsible for the current staffing of the task force included the request of $1,000 in funding from each county community – funding which Murphy noted would help the task force handle the main goal of its day-to-day business.
"Those funds are basically operational funds for the unit to go out and buy drugs and stuff like that," Murphy said.
Discussed among the police chiefs throughout the county, the total amount requested (which it was noted would be an annual cost until operational budgets reach a sustainable level) was brought down from a higher initial figure so as not to be a burden on some of the smaller communities in Harvey County.
Currently, Newton PD and the Harvey County Sheriff's Office handle the bulk of the operations and financing of the operations, with the latter including two new positions for the task force in its 2019 budget and the former recently submitting a Justice Assistance Grant to secure funds for the task force to receive 800 MHZ radios. However, Murphy noted the joint aspect and having that support and contribution throughout the community is key.
"It's important because then they've got some buy-in to the program," Murphy said. "It's not just us or the sheriff coming in and doing it. They've actually got some incentive to participate and be part of the task force."
Additionally, Murphy noted that collaboration is key because of jurisdictional boundaries. While law enforcement has to adhere to those boundaries, criminals are not beholden to those same regulations. Getting everyone on the same page will make it easier for the joint task force to accomplish its goal in deterring drug crime.
Before the funding is secured, the proposed agreement will have to be brought to each governing body by the local police chiefs — something Murphy hopes will be happening in the near future, as this collaboration is something he has been advocating for going back at least a year.
"Something that we've needed and we've known that we've needed for some time is additional help on the drug front," Murphy said. "It's important for us to stand with one front and work as a team on this."