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PADDING THE BOOKS he Observer has tabulated almost 200 sus pect casescases the task force claimed credit for but apparently had nothing to do withfound in the CCNTF log books from 1996 to 1998. Each case took place in Polk County and was brought to the task force by former Polk County sheriff’s deputy Mike Nettles, according to former CCNTF officer Barbara Markham. Was the task force somehow involved in these cases? The Observer picked one at random, a 177 pound possession of marijuana case filed against Dwayne Lewis on August 25, 1996. The Polk County Enterprise ran a brief story on the arrest, which involved a 2 A.M. traffic stop on Interstate 59 near Corrigan. The arresting officer, according to the Enterprise, was Polk County Sheriff’s deputy Jason Bridges, assisted at the scene by Bobby Cheshire of the Corrigan Police Department. No mention was made of the task force. In a phone interview, Bobby Cheshire, who now works as a truck driver, said he recalled the stop. Was the task force involved? “No, no, no. That was all Jason:’ he said. “He observed the car, and he stopped it. I don’t recall what the traffic violation was .,” Cheshire said. In a phone interview, Bridges said he also recalled the case. He confirmed that he was not assigned to the task force. Asked how the stop could have gotten in the task force logs, Bridges said, “I was working for the county, but there was a member of us [on the task force] so they got all of our state Bridges, who now works on a task force in east Texas, defended the practice, although he noted that this was not the way things were done at his current task force. “From my understanding, when I was working at Polk County, they did claim our stats but that’s because they assist us with our investigations:’ Bridges said. “As long as you assist the investigation you ought to get credit for it, whether it’s making phone calls or whatever:’ But was this highway stop a task force investigation? “As far as them being out there with me on that stop or something like that, I don’t remember and I can’t quote on that and I won’t:’ he said. But according to Cheshire, the Dwayne Lewis case was just a routine stop on the highway, not the result of an investigation by anybody. “It was not a tip, it was not anything, you know it was just a traffic violation: According to Don Jones, the Denton area DPS narcotics agent, task forces will sometimes follow up is doled out every year in a grant process dependent largely on evaluations of these reports. The report form itself clearly warns against making fraudulent entries. Nettles is no longer with the CCNTF, but Liberty County currently has an officer assigned to the task force. And there is evidence that Little has secured a source of stats in Chambers County. A new sheriff, Monroe Kreuzer, took office in January. In a move that surprised many in Chambers County, he hired Dearl Hardy \(who had found work as a school police According to Jack Kelly, who served briefly as a deputy in the new administration, Hardy is directing his deputies to send all drug cases to the task force. “I made a bust about four one morning on a guy and he had about a gram of cocaine on him:’ Kelly said. “And so I went through the normal procedure like we’d always done. Put the guy in jail, came in and field tested the dope, did a report on it.” Kelly said he was preparing to turn the dope in for DPS lab analysis, when Dearl Hardy walked in and told him to stop. “He said, ‘You don’t do that: And I said,`Oh? Since when?’And he said what you do is you call the task force, they come pick up the dope, you write a supplement and [the case] is theirs,” Kelly recalled. “I said, ‘Well how in the hell can you write a supplement when you’re the one that initiated the case?’ [And Hardy said] Nope, that’s what we do.'” Kelly said he signed the evidence slip to Hardy, handed him the dope, and left. A few days later, he resigned. Why would Hardy be helping out Little, who only lately let him go? Several observers in Chambers County have speculated that Hardy and Little cut a deal: Little helped Hardy get the chief deputy spot, despite his past, and Hardy agreed to supply Little with stats for the task force. “I know a lot of other people made the comment that Little had fired [Hardy] before, and now they’re the best of buddies,” Kelly said. Asked about Kelly’s story, Hardy denied directing stats to the task force and he said he never told Kelly to write up the case as though it were not his own. “That would be falsifying a report:’ he said. 4g f you’ve ever taken physics, electricity will follow the path of least resistance,” said Walter Fontenot. “And it’s the same thing in law enforcement. Boy, if you can bust something easy, go after the easy ones. Something hard? Well, that takes time, that takes energy, that takes brainwork.” Fontenot said he would just as soon see the task forces abolished and the money given to the DPS narcotics division. Progress is difficult to measure in the drug war. Washington demands numbers because numbers don’t lie. But the numbers in this part of Texas are getting a good workout. According to Markham, the FBI often chips in some confidential funds to a task force investigation so it can count the stats for its own records. \(A snitch working on those cases times counts cases made by local authorities, if they feel its 16 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 10/26/01