Military people who have helped track the financing of terrorist cells around the world are putting their skills to use in the war on drugs in Massachusetts.
A program that began three years ago where a member of the Massachusetts National Guard was embedded with the Hampden County District Attorney’s office to analyze data and provide other assistance to a narcotics task force will continue, officials announced Wednesday.
" It has been a very fruitful partnership," said Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni.
Gulluni and Major General Gary Keefe, Adjutant General of the Massachusetts National Guard, signed a new memorandum of understanding to extend the Guard’s counterdrug program in Hampden County. Similar programs now operate in the offices of district attorneys in Berkshire, Bristol, and Plymouth counties.
Gulluni said the personnel from the National Guard have assisted in lengthy investigations that resulted in “significant arrests” by the State Police detective unit assigned to his office.
In addition to providing crime analysis, the Guard, according to Keefe, helps local law enforcement in Massachusetts with language translation, training, and on occasion will supply resources such as helicopters.
" It is not our goal to militarize law enforcement any way at all," declared Keefe.
The involvement of the National Guard in narcotics enforcement stems from federal legislation in the 1980s that authorized the Department of Defense to combat drug trafficking.
Keefe said state Guard commanders are given freedom to design drug enforcement programs tailored to the needs of their states.
"We feel great that we are having an impact on the opioid epidemic that is just destroying the Commonwealth," said Keefe.
From an asset forfeiture program, the National Guard turned $27,000 over to the Hampden District Attorney’s office.
" Money is tight for everybody," said Keefe who said the funds could fill in the gaps that local law enforcment has when budgeting for equipment.
The money will be used by the police departments in Springfield, Holyoke, Chicopee, and Ludlow to purchase equipment to be used in drug enforcement.