The future of the Missouri River Drug Task Force, an anti-narcotics unit that includes 10 police detectives from seven counties in southwestern Montana, may depend on whether its officers can confiscate enough drug money to pay their own salaries, reports Stateline.org. That's because the task force, like hundreds of other specialized state and local law-enforcement teams across the country, relies heavily on a funding stream that Congress slashed by 67 percent last year.
Similar scenarios are playing out across the nation, as cash-strapped law-enforcement teams come to terms with potentially crippling cuts in funding under a key federal grant program. State and local governments, struggling as the U.S. economy falters and tax revenues flatten, are unable to help. Congress reduced funding for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program from $520 million last fiscal year to an all-time low of $170 million this year. State and local officials – including all 50 governors, all 50 state attorneys general and members of the National Association of Counties and National Sheriffs' Association – are urging Congress to restore the Byrne grant program at least to its 2007 level before this fiscal year ends and local task forces are forced to confront huge shortfalls. Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe said the federal reduction to Byrne grants “will send a signal to drug traffickers that will be viewed as a green light to increase drug trafficking in our states,” adding that “more children will be exposed to illegal drugs.”