How WestNET compares with Pierce County task force
The West Sound Narcotics Enforcement Team (WestNET), a federally funded drug task force based in Kitsap County, has fallen below required standards of prosecution success every year since 2007, according to a News Tribune analysis.
How does WestNET compare to its sister task force, the Tahoma Narcotics Enforcement Team (TNET), based in Pierce County? To get the answer, The News Tribune sought and obtained public records of TNET’s performance.
TNET has received about $1.3 million in federal grant money since 2007. Records state that TNET cases led to successful prosecutions 95 percent of the time, clearing the standard of 80 percent success as defined in state requirements. The numbers don’t include declined cases, which could change success rates – The News Tribune sought that information from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, but received no response.
The comparison between TNET and WestNET is not perfect, because TNET is structured differently. TNET is a federally sponsored task force with direct oversight from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
Federal oversight creates fundamental differences. Virtually all of TNET’s cases go to federal court, often running through a Pierce County deputy prosecutor assigned to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. That prosecutor, Jim Schacht, also sits on TNET’s executive board, providing a layer of direct oversight that WestNET does not have.
For verification purposes, The News Tribune requested records of all cases submitted to Pierce County prosecutors by TNET – mirroring a similar request for WestNET cases.
The records revealed that most of WestNET’s cases went to local courts. For TNET, it was just the opposite – no local cases.
“For the most part the cases TNET works go into federal court,” said John Sheeran, Pierce County deputy prosecuting attorney. “They work cases to death – it’s the federal government. When they find a target they do everything you imagine the federal government would do. If you’re dealing with the smaller cases, you’re not playing the same game.”
Sean Robinson, staff writer