New drug task force formed

By submitted, 03/13/18 1:42 PM


HOPE – Eighth North Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Christi McQueen, Hempstead County Sheriff James Singleton, Nevada County Sheriff Danny Martin, Hope Police Chief J.R. Wilson, and Prescott Police Chief Joseph Beavers are combining forces to establish the 8th North Task Force.

The new task force will be made up of sheriff’s deputies and police officers in the 8th North Judicial District, which is made up of Hempstead and Nevada Counties.

The unit will focus on the distribution, sale and transportation of illegal narcotics in and through the 8th North Judicial District.  “Not only will large scale dealers be targeted, but also what I call “street-corner dealers” who are such a bane and disgust to our communities,” said McQueen.  The task force will also work together on major crimes committed within the district.

Part of the funding for the task force will come from monies seized by officers during drug arrests and forfeited by court order to the Eighth North Judicial District Drug Control Fund administered by the Prosecutor’s office.  “It is fitting that drug criminals are financing our fight against drugs,” said McQueen.

The local agencies had been a part of the South-Central Drug Task Force for the last 15-20 years.  The SCDTF included Howard, Sevier, Little River, Hempstead, and Nevada Counties until recently when the heads of Hempstead and Nevada County Law Enforcement and 8th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Christi McQueen met and decided their resources could be better used, and the citizens of Hempstead and Nevada Counties better served, by establishing a task force to work in the 8th North District.

The decision was not made lightly, as all local agencies have had a great working relationship with the SCDTF. However, over the past several years, federal funding has been reduced each year, leaving the funding of the SCDTF in question.  For the past several years, there has only been one supervisor and two agents covering five counties and two judicial districts.

The newly formed 8th North Task Force will have a director and four agents to cover one judicial district and two counties. This will not involve any new hires as each of the four law enforcement agencies will assign one officer to serve as an agent to the task force.  All officers assigned to the task force are well-trained veterans of law enforcement.

The 8th North Task force will be governed by a board of directors consisting of Prosecuting Attorney Christi McQueen, Hempstead County Sheriff James Singleton, Nevada County Sheriff Danny Martin, Prescott Police Chief Joseph Beavers, and Hope Police Chief J.R. Wilson.  The board will appoint a director to oversee the daily operations of the task force. The board will also appoint a board chairman, from the heads of the agencies represented, to serve as chairman for one year to call and to conduct meetings of the task force.

The 8th North Task Force met February 28, and appointed Captain Frank McJunkins, a 25-year veteran investigator of the Hempstead County Sheriff’s Office, to be the first Director of the 8th North Task Force. The board also appointed Hempstead County Sheriff James Singleton as Chairman for one year, beginning March 15.

In addition, Hempstead County Sheriff James Singleton and Nevada County Danny Martin Deputized members of the Hope Police S.W.A.T. team in each county to work in conjunction with the 8th North Task Force.   The task force agents and members of the S.W.A.T. team were sworn in Monday afternoon by Circuit Judge Wm. Randall Wright.

The task force is set to begin operations March 15, 2018.