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August 18, 2010

Cass County drug task force short an officer

Sheriff’s spot on task force has been open since April

For several months, the Cass County Drug Task Force has been operating drug investigations countywide with just two Logansport police officers.

The level of staffing has Logansport Police Chief A.J. Rozzi concerned.

“Two guys is not enough to cover the workload,” he said.

Since its creation in 1997, the task force has been made up of two LPD officers and an officer from the Cass County Sheriff’s Department. An officer from the Indiana State Police assists on an infrequent basis because of assignments in other counties.

The recent shortage resulted from the retirement of Sgt. Jeff Schnepp, who stepped down in April after 23 years on the department. Schnepp was reportedly one of the original officers on the task force.

Sheriff Gene Isaacs says he will not assign another officer to the task force until he has filled an opening in the department’s patrol ranks. Road coverage, he says, is his department’s main priority.

Isaacs got the OK from the commissioners and county council to fill the patrolman’s vacancy created by Schnepp’s retirement. On Tuesday, he said he planned on beginning the hiring process within the next two weeks.

A rookie officer would have to complete several weeks of training at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, and though the last class for 2010 is quickly approaching, the sheriff is not sure he will make that deadline.

Since Isaacs says he won’t appoint someone to the drug task force until after a new officer graduates from the academy, the duty of filling the open slot could fall on the new sheriff, meaning that the task force might not be fully staffed for at least another four months and possibly longer.

Isaacs said he would try to fill the opening before he leaves office Dec. 31. In the meantime, he said, he will continue allowing officers such as Sgt. Pat Zeider and his K-9 Rohan to assist the task force in serving warrants.

Rozzi said the two LPD officers work constantly tracking alleged meth makers, cocaine dealers and marijuana growers. They have accumulated numerous overtime hours in a period of severe budget restrictions, he said.

Rozzi said he didn’t want to limit the LPD task force officers to just the city because drug activity often crosses jurisdictional lines. For example, making meth and growing marijuana mostly occur in rural areas, but sales occur more frequently in the city, Rozzi said.

Funding for the drug task force is provided by each department.

Officers are paid through their own departments. The city provides space for the drug task force and pays most utilities while the county pays the telephone bill. Rozzi said he wanted to assure the public that his department would continue actively working cases in Logansport and Cass County.

“Our hope is that in the near future the sheriff reassigns someone to the that division to help those guys out,” he said.

• Kevin Lilly is news editor of the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5117 or kevin.lilly@pharostribune.com.

 

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