Tahoe drug task force dissolves
Founded in the heady days of the “Deep Snow” investigation that resulted in the indictment of South Lake Tahoe’s mayor in the late 1980s, a drug task force consisting of Tahoe law enforcement agencies has official dissolved nearly three decades later.
Formed in 1988, SLEDNET over the years included personnel from the South Lake Tahoe Police Department, El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, California Department of Justice, California Highway Patrol, El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office, El Dorado County Probation Department, Alpine County Sheriff’s Department, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, and Nevada Division of Investigation.
In 2014, SLEDNET included resources from California Department of Justice, SLTPD, EDSO, El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office, and El Dorado County Probation Department. Also in 2014, the California Department of Justice made the decision to reassign personnel from SLEDNET to other state priorities. Similarly, in the months following, staffing shortages and other priorities resulted in other agencies deciding to pull their personnel from SLEDNET.
Most recently, for over a year, the only agencies providing people for SLEDNET has been the SLTPD and El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department. With the significant reduction in assigned personnel, the operational effectiveness of SLEDNET was diminished as major drug investigations require large numbers of law enforcement officers for things like surveillance, drug raids, etc. Last month, the El Dorado County Sheriff made the difficult decision to no longer support SLEDNET with assigned personnel, leaving only the SLTPD as a participating agency.
With only one agency, a “task force,” by definition, cannot continue. El Dorado County will continue to provide undercover narcotics enforcement work throughout the entire county through another county-led task force which is based on the west slope. We have reassigned the two SLTPD task force Officers to our Detective unit where part of their duties focus on crimes related to illegal drugs within the City of South Lake Tahoe. In the event a large-scale drug investigation is necessary in the future, the SLTPD and El Dorado Sheriff are committed to pool resources to ensure we still have the capacity to do this important work.
Unfortunately, there is a serious problem with drugs in South Lake Tahoe. We see direct connections with drug abuse and crime. Just a few months ago, a marijuana transaction-related homicide occurred in our City. Social scientists and law enforcement professionals agree that a myriad of other crimes also have their roots in the drug trade and drug usage. Crimes related to drug use, such as theft, auto theft, and other property crimes, seriously erode the quality of life in our community.
These facts appear to be at odds with a steady weakening of laws pertaining to drugs. For example, the Safe Schools and Neighborhoods Act, known as Proposition 47, reduced many drug felonies to misdemeanors—are schools and neighborhoods safer now? Also, there have been significant statewide public pressures to lower the priority of drug enforcement work. For example, just a few years ago, there were over 50 drug task forces in the state and now there are about a dozen. Also, there are many who assert people with drug problems should not be subjected to penalties from the criminal justice system but instead be given healthcare options.
On the front lines, cops who encounter drug offenders are now most likely writing the offender the equivalent of a ticket. These misdemeanors are understandably given lower levels of priority within the other cogs of the criminal justice system (prosecution and courts), leaving those who choose to use drugs with little in the way of consequences until they suffer a serious medical problem or are caught for a crime with teeth. Our citizens experience the fallout of this decriminalization every day.