Members of the Clarksville Police Department say the town recently had the reputation as one the easiest places in the area for drug dealers to push their products.
The same officers are saying that is no longer the case.
For the first time in the department’s history, a Narcotics Division has been created to identify those bringing drugs into the town and build cases to put drug offenders behind bars.
While the new division is only a two-man operation consisting of Detective Cpl. Joel DeMoss and Detective Nate Walls, officers say an operating drug squad is long overdue.
“In Clarksville, honestly, it was embarrassing,” DeMoss said. “Other departments would come in our jurisdiction and make all the dope arrests — all the big arrests that we should have been doing, that we should have been investigating.”
The implementation of the Narcotics Division is part of the department’s restructuring, following the (hire/hiring) of Clarksville Police Chief Mark Palmer in January.
Only months after taking the reigns, Palmer had selected DeMoss and Walls to lead the department’s effort combating drug offenses in Clarksville.
Each of detectives has experience working as a uniform-patrol officer and both said they previously felt restricted under the previous administration when attempting to investigate drug cases.
“For years and years it was all just street officers. Working whatever they could off the street,” DeMoss said. “We never had the opportunity in the last several years of somebody to go to when we investigated drugs on the street to say, ‘Hey, this is what we have going on.’”
Without a Narcotics Division, a zealous patrol officer who initiated drug cases had few alternatives to have the investigations carried out by higher-ranking detectives.
The gap between street officers and narcotics detectives has been closed by the department’s new leaders including Palmer, Assistant Chief David Kirby and Chief of Detectives Darrell Rayborn.
Uniform officers can now turn to DeMoss and Walls with info they pick up on possible drug offenders while on patrol.
By Palmer providing DeMoss and Walls with unprecedented autonomy to focus on drug cases, the detectives now have the tools to aggressively go after drug offenders.
“It goes with the general department’s philosophy now of proactive policing as opposed to waiting for things to come,” DeMoss said. “If you are going to be a proactive department, you are going to have to work narcotics.”
DeMoss said in the past, when suspected drug activity was found by street officers, the officers would have to find time on their own patrol shifts to build a case.
The problem, DeMoss and Walls explained, was that street officers often lacked the time or resources to properly conduct surveillance and other functions to carry out the investigations.
“The general philosophy change and comrade atmosphere around here has totally changed in the uniform division as well, which has made it much better for us doing our job,” Walls said.
Through the Narcotics Division, Palmer is setting up his investigators to combat the town’s robust drug activity.
“Now with the Narcotics Division we are able to concentrate on the source people, the dealers, the suppliers, who are constantly bringing in the Opanas, the meth, the heroin, the cocaine,” DeMoss said. “That is a big change, as far as narcotics go.”
DeMoss and Walls are now able to exclusively work drug investigations about 70 percent of time.
“We are able to put more time into truly identifying who are threats to our community and chasing them down,” Walls said.