Four Units May Consolidate

A plan to combine the Franklin County Narcotics Enforcement Unit with three other task forces in eastern Missouri will increase efficiency and reduce costs, according to the county’s chief narcotics investigator.

Detective Sgt. Jason Grellner, head of Franklin County’s task force, said there’s a larger move under way to consolidate the state’s 27 task forces in light of cuts in federal funding for such units throughout the United States.

“This is the first time in 25 years that we’ve taken a comprehensive look at the state’s task forces and ways to fund them,” Grellner told The Missourian.

“I think this is a great idea,” remarked Washington Police Chief Ken Hahn.

Hahn currently is president of the Franklin County unit’s board of directors which also includes Sheriff Gary Toelke and police chiefs from Union, Pacific, St. Clair and Sullivan.

“This is vital, it’s necessary,” Hahn said. “There’s too much fragmentation now. We have too many task forces competing for grant funding now.

“This will streamline funding and we’ll have better organization,” Hahn said. “It will be structured so that all areas will get equal services and there will be good accountability.”

Since 2010, federal funding to task forces from the U.S. Department of Justice has been cut by 40 percent, Grellner said.

He recently was asked to be a member of an advisory committee to study how those funding cuts affect task forces in Missouri and what can be done to offset them.

“We’re looking at how we can consolidate task forces and reduce costs, yet still get the job done,” Grellner said.

At a meeting last Thursday, the heads of task forces from Jefferson, Lincoln and Franklin counties and the Mineral Area Task Force agreed that it makes sense to consolidate those units “as long as we can reach an agreement on standard operating procedures,” Grellner said. “We’re working on that now.”

The plan, when completed, will unite nine counties under one task force, he explained. In addition to Franklin, Jefferson and Lincoln counties, the new task force would cover the counties of Washington, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, Iron, Madison and Reynolds.

“We also will be talking to St. Louis County as we move forward over the next three years,” Grellner said.

The partnership will be run by the Franklin County unit, he explained.

“We’ll be better able to utilize funds and share resources,” Grellner said. “Also, we will be able to share manpower, especially in undercover operations.”

Member units also will be able to share electronic equipment and other law enforcement resources.

Consolidating the task forces also will reduce expenses for such things as insurance coverage and cellphones by having the ability to enter into a single, rather than multiple contracts. “We’ll also be looking at consolidating offices to save on rental costs,” Grellner said.

Depending on the savings, the consolidation could lead to adding manpower, he said.

The target date for the consolidation is July 1.

“We’ll be looking at further changes over the next two years,” he added.

“This is the first true reinvention of the state’s task forces in 25 years,” Grellner remarked.

The Franklin County task force was established in 2005. An earlier county task force organized in the 1990s was later disbanded.