In addition to securing the indictments of 16 people, Brown proclaimed that the eight-month probe called “Operation Silver Fox” compromised the operations of Mexico’s notorious Sinaloa drug cartel by seizing more than 550 pounds of cocaine and marijuana, along with $1.7 million in U.S. currency and an assortment of firearms.
Not only has the Sinaloa cartel been smuggling massive quantities of drugs into Southern California, Brown said, but it also fueled drug addiction and street violence throughout the nation.
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“Through a very dangerous and courageous undercover operation,” Brown continued, “the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement and Imperial County Narcotic Task Force has dealt a body blow to this syndicate and seized hundreds of pounds of narcotics.”
That was then. Things have changed significantly.
More than two years after the drug-fighting effort was praised, deep cuts of about $71 million slated for the next two fiscal years have led to the disbandment of the same crime-fighting unit Brown lauded in his presentation: the 85-year-old Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement.
The budgetary axe has also fallen on 207 special agents who are all expected to be laid off by Feb. 17 and on the Bureau of Investigation and Intelligence as well.
The cutbacks have resulted in shutting down 34 of the BNE’s 52 regional task forces throughout the state, officials said.
Imperial Valley’s own NTF unit will not be scuttled under Brown’s spending plan but a total of 14 people at the Law Enforcement Coordination Center will lose their jobs, said Mike Loyd, an NTF commander who spoke only in the capacity as president of the Association of Special Agents.
Among those whose jobs are targeted for elimination next month include analysts, support staff and agents assigned to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the BII, Loyd said.
Agents with the state’s Department of Justice typically keep a low profile because of the nature of what they do but the funding reductions have forced them to go public with their concerns through a lawsuit the Association of Special Agents filed in Sacramento against Gov. Jerry Brown.
No hearing has been set as the association is waiting for a reply from the governor’s legal counsel, said Sacramento-based attorney Daniel Mastagni Sr., who represents the association.
The association hopes to forestall the layoffs in its suit, Mastagni said.
Attorney General Kamala Harris should have been given the authority to use her discretion as to how the cuts should’ve been applied, Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez, D-Coachella, said in an e-mailed statement.
“The inability to strike a balance in cuts and revenues in last year’s budget negotiations resulted in much more drastic cuts by the governor in June, including (Department of Justice) funding,” Perez said.
“The specific cuts to BNE are very concerning to me,” Perez continued. “The drug and gang task forces play a critical role in our border region, given the level of illegal drug traffic that comes through our port.”