Hats are off to Sampson Sheriff Jimmy Thornton and his department for the hard work they did in assisting other law enforcement agencies with a 2011 investigation of a Mexican drug organization responsible for trafficking drug money on I-40.
That multi-agency probe led to the seizure of over $4 million in seized currency that was divided last week among 19 state and local law enforcement agencies, including Sampson. Our Sheriff’s Department received $279,255.72, making it the third highest recipient of the confiscated cash.
That shows the hard work put in and the reward reaped from those efforts, an exclamation point to a job very well done.
But, before government leaders begin foaming at the mouth over Sampson’s share of the federally confiscated funds, one thing should be clear — that portion of the money seized isn’t county dollars, it’s Sheriff’s Department dollars and should be used by Thornton to meet the needs he sees within his department.
While past history shows us that some members of the Sampson County Board of Commissioners believe that dollars brought in by the Sheriff’s Department are county dollars and, thereby, can be used as leaders deem most appropriate, in this case we would strongly disagree.
Federally confiscated money is earmarked for law enforcement, and well it should be. These men and women are the ones who put their lives on the line to conduct the operation and bring it to a successful end. The rewards from having done so belong to those who worked hard to ensure its success and the departments with which they are affiliated.
Such is the case with the I-40 operation. The successful campaign jailed two men on racketeering-related charges and pulled in over $4 million in cash that was being transported on I-40. Those agencies who helped make it possible are the ones sharing in the seized property.
Thornton has said Sampson’s share will go a good ways in meeting many of his department’s needs, some which budget constraints haven’t allowed for meeting. That would include the purchase of a couple of vehicles, replacement of some outdated radar equipment, a portable drug ID unit, emergency lighting for three vehicles and propane conversion for seven vehicles (which also saves the county money), among other items.
Final approval rests with commissioners. It should be a unanimous vote, with commissioners adding their thanks to the sheriff and his department for not only the assistance they gave with the operation but for the financial benefits they reaped because of it.
The Sheriff’s Department is known for paying its way. Housing out-of-county inmates is one good example; the recent federal seizure and the money received is another.
Commissioners should recognize those efforts and be appreciative of them.