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Lawnet Fights Drugs Undercover - Chiefs Praise Team's Efforts;


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The quickest way for officers to learn if someone is selling "dope or narcotics" is to play the part, says a former undercover federal drug agent.

 

Charlie Fuller, executive director of the International Association of Undercover Officers, said the undercover officer does not wear a bulletproof vest and may not carry a weapon, but he or she is essential to combating drugs at the street level.

 

"I know the general public wants their police to be G.I. Joe perfect, not lie, not biased and not secret, but we have to have undercover officers," he said. "I know people don't like it being secret, but that's what the word means. It's undercover."

 

In Livingston County, that undercover team is known as the Livingston and Washtenaw Narcotics Enforcement Team, or LAWNET, which is a multijurisdictional team comprised of officers from county and state law enforcement agencies.

 

It is not, however, a component unit of any government, according to a February 2011 audit by a Jackson-area accounting firm.

 

In 2011, LAWNET made headlines for raids on local marijuana dispensaries, and some in the public believe the group unfairly targeted medical marijuana users when reports showed that Livingston County, in particular the Hamburg Township and Pinckney areas, were hard hit by heroin.

 

Michigan State Police Detective 1st Lt. Wynonia Sturdivant, a former LAWNET supervisor, disagreed.

 

"I'd say we concentrate on heroin; we concentrate on Ecstasy; we concentrate on methamphetamine," she said. "We concentrate on all aspects of illegal drug usage and trafficking."

 

LAWNET's current director, Michigan State Police Detective 1st Lt. David Peltomaa, added: "I believe they target people who are in violation of the law."

 

 

What is LAWNET?

LAWNET began in 1970 as the Washtenaw Area Narcotics Team, which was formed to address and combat narcotic trafficking and other violations of Michigan laws. It grew in 1981 to include Livingston County.

 

Area police chiefs decide whether to assign an officer to the team, which is governed by an 18-member board of directors. The board is comprised of state police representatives, the chiefs who have an officer on the team as well as a representative from prosecutors' offices in Livingston and Washtenaw counties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.livingsto...EWS01/203060324

LAWNET is comprised of three sections — two narcotics teams; a major case team; and an auto theft team.

 

It is funded through monetary contributions from member agencies, grants and forfeiture items.

 

The Daily Press & Argus could not immediately obtain a current budget for LAWNET. However, a February 2011 audit by a Jackson-area accounting firm indicates LAWNET had $624,162 in expenditures for the year ending Dec. 31, 2010.

 

That audit, posted online by the Michigan Department of Treasury, also indicates the organization's revenue for the year was $528,184, which included $327,690 from forfeitures, which can include electronics, vehicles, homes or land.

 

Forfeitures are a primary funding source for LAWNET, but it is "not a guaranteed funding stream," according to the audit.

 

Other revenue sources that year came included $30,000 from Washtenaw County; $81,505 from a federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area grant; a $40,000 highway interdiction grant; and $25,108 from "other intergovernmental revenue."

 

The audit states the HIDTA grant is expected to be reduced 16 percent in 2012.

 

Local police chiefs say LAWNET is a necessary tool in today's world, especially considering budget crunches that do not allow individual departments to create their own drug investigation units.

 

"We don't have the resources to do what I think is adequate drug enforcement, especially in hard economic times," Hamburg Township Police Chief Rick Duffany said. "That is exactly why we have someone in LAWNET."

 

While the local police chiefs believe LAWNET is effective, some area residents question that claim, and they wonder if LAWNET inappropriately targets medical marijuana users versus another drug.

 

"We don't care about marijuana. We do care about heroin, especially when it's killing not only kids but adults as well and at such an alarming rate," said Genoa Township resident Glynis McBain. "The bust is a waste of time and a justification that our law enforcement is doing 'somthing' about illegal drug use.

 

Edited by bobandtorey
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1. LAWNET's current director, Michigan State Police Detective 1st Lt. David Peltomaa, added: "I believe they target people who are in violation of the law."

2. LAWNET began in 1970 as the Washtenaw Area Narcotics Team, which was formed to address and combat narcotic trafficking and other violations of Michigan laws.

 

Cannabis is no longer illegal, for qualified individuals, at the state level.

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