Pittsburgh may dissolve its police “Impact Squad,” a small group of aggressive undercover narcotics detectives who specialize in busting street-corner drug dealers, in favor of reassigning the officers to investigative work, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. In its place, the uniformed Street Response Unit is expected to take over drug-suppression efforts. Some police officers fear the move will backfire, paving the way for a rise in open-air drug markets with no effective means to shut them down. Impact detectives have fashioned a tough aura, maintaining that they are one of the few groups of police officers whom hard-core criminals fear.
Narcotics detectives focus on mid-level dealers and handle search warrants, controlled buys, and longer-term cases. Weed & Seed detectives, who work with federal agents, use wiretaps and other resources to build cases against the drug world’s upper echelons. Typically, the Impact Squad works street crime. The dozen detectives currently assigned to the squad operate in unmarked cars and street clothes, use the element of surprise, and patrol the city’s most dangerous trouble spots to shut down drug dealers and seize narcotics and guns. Their tactics consist of surveillance and “jumping out,” or surprising suspects and confronting them.