Myers: TRIDENT’s work was ‘lawsuit waiting to happen’
On Tuesday District Attorney Mac Myers released a statement profiling his reasons for this year’s departure with the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team, or TRIDENT.Myers said his decision to take the district attorney’s office out of TRIDENT is now an issue in the district attorney race between Colleen Truden and Lawson Wills. He said he has an obligation to the office and to the public to discuss his reasons for the split.An investigation has been launched by the Colorado Bureau of Investigations into the loss of “apparently a substantial amount of money [that was] seized and held by TRIDENT,” Myers’ statement says.Steve Vaughan of the CBI’s Montrose office confirmed the agency is conducting an investigation, but said he could not comment further. Vaughan directed questions to Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling, the TRIDENT board chairman who had a hand in requesting the investigation in the first place.Schilling also declined to comment yesterday, saying that “since the investigation is ongoing, I can’t release any information about that.”But Myers explains in his statement that his problems with the drug enforcement team actually began in January 2003, when he says the team became sloppy and “poorly managed.” Specifically, Myers did not condone the use of confidential informants while trying to make arrests, saying sometimes the informants were criminals who were on probation at the time – a direct violation of state probation directives.He also claims that TRIDENT officers often failed to prepare reports, handled evidence poorly and refused to turn over information to prosecutors that is required to be given to the defense.Because of insufficient evidence or cases involving confidential informants on probation, there were an “inordinately high number of dismissals and uncharged cases which, of course, created resentment on the part of task force members.”Myers says prosecutors don’t have absolute immunity for work done before filing charges, and he felt the work by TRIDENT was “a lawsuit waiting to happen, and I did not want my office in the position of being sued for the recklessness of the task force.”But Myers also says he has long supported drug prosecution and has aggressively prosecuted drug dealers. He said since last winter, TRIDENT has become largely inactive but is working on coming back with new, capable officers.- Naomi Havlen
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