Leader changes structure of Carroll drug task force


The makeup of the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force has changed dramatically in recent weeks, although its leaders insist its goals have remained the same.

And, for the first time in its five-year history, the drug force is temporarily without an officer from Westminster Police Department.

"I've made some changes, like I told you I would," said state police Detective Sgt. Gary W. Cofflin, who heads the task force's day-to-day operations.

"It's not that we've been dissatisfied with what's been going on, we just felt it was time to inject some new life, some new blood, into this already effective organization."

In addition to Detective Sergeant Cofflin, several new members have joined Carroll's interdepartmental drug interdiction group since former State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman was defeated last fall by his former assistant, Jerry F. Barnes.

Among them are two new state police troopers and two new sheriff's deputies.

Sheriff's Deputy Jay Prise has left the group, as has Westminster Sgt. Andrew McKendrick. Sergeant McKendrick's replacement from Westminster has not been named, although Detective Sergeant Cofflin said he was confident that Police Chief Sam R. Leppo would name one this month.

The changes in the task force come amid the release Friday of a county audit of the group's finances during Mr. Hickman's tenure.

The preliminary audit criticized the way Mr. Hickman financed the group's highly successful Operation Center Court, in which the group broke three heroin and cocaine rings.

The report said that Mr. Hickman should have used state police funds, not county funds, to pay for the undercover buys and other expenses associated with the raid.

The sole recommendation of the audit report was to have Mr. Barnes ask the state police for reimbursement.

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