Drug Task Force Scandals: A National Look

Since 1988, the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program (originally named the Edward Byrne State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance Grant Program) has provided federal money to establish and operate narcotic task forces across America.

However, Byrne grants have been widely criticized, by groups ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to the more conservative Heritage Foundation. Because the program lacks strict guidelines and standards, its task forces have been plagued with corruption and blamed for countless cases of wrongful incarceration—cases in no way limited to Tulia, Texas. Drug task force scandals are a national problem, involving everything from police perjury and evidence tampering to racial profiling and the misuse of millions of dollars of federal money.

Although Texas dismantled its Byrne-funded narcotics forces after the Tulia scandal, more than 600 Byrne task forces remain in operation in the U.S. Despite the Bush administration’s efforts to cut the grant program, Congress voted in 2008 to authorize Byrne funding until 2013. President Barack Obama's 2009 economic stimulus package called for $3 billion in new Byrne grants, but the U.S. Senate and House compromise bill he signed into law allocates $2 billion for the program through 2010.

Click on the map markers to view a selected sample of task force-related scandals in recent years.

page updated 2/23/09


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