Drug Roundup A Good Thing But Highlights Other Problems


Following a high-profile and dramatic roundup of some of Payson's suspected drug pushers Thursday morning, some attributed the effort to the upcoming sheriff's election.

In fact, the roundup was the result of an operation that has been ongoing since 2002 in a very covert, behind-the-scenes manner.

Officers decked out in SWAT gear fanned out across town drawing the attention of residents.

When all was said and done, 24 of Payson's "finest" were charged with selling meth, marijuana, prescription pain killers.

I say as long as police use legal tactics, who cares how you get them.

The real question is what happens now?

Is a guy like Shannon Chambers, our local "Teflon Don," actually going to prison this time?

According to Payson Police Lt. Don Engler, they have arrested Chambers 13 times since Oct. 2002 on charges ranging from assault and disorderly conduct to drug possession. How is it that you can get arrested 13 times and not go to prison? Either there is something going on behind the scenes or the justice system is broken.

Sheriff John Armer has shown that getting drug dealers off the streets is a priority and it should be. Drug dealers are usually drug users and often commit crimes such as theft and burglary to feed their habit.

But this highly public roundup brings to light a few things -- one being that the county attorney's office needs to be consistently aggressive in prosecuting repeat offenders -- the other is appropriate use of manpower. There are underpaid deputies and police officers, spread thin, who keep arresting the same suspects over and over again.

When someone in Pine or Strawberry cannot get a deputy to respond because they are busy serving arrest warrants in Payson, it could ruffle a few feathers.

I received a call from a resident of Strawberry who called the sheriff's office twice because some teens were lighting fireworks on an abandoned lot full of dead pine trees behind her home. No one responded. A deputy was not available.

The Gila County Narcotics Task Force and the Payson Police have worked hard to rid our communities of drug users and dealers. They should be rewarded by watching those they arrest actually pay the price for their crimes. They should be adequately compensated as many are about 20-percent below the market average.

Lastly, the Payson Sheriff's Office is in need of more deputies or some reorganization.

People in outlying communities should never be told that there is no deputy available or that help is coming, but it may take an hour. There must be a way to get funds or move money around to improve coverage in some of our rural areas.

Good public safety comes from keeping the fiscal priorities in proper perspective with political agendas.

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