The July 14 meeting of the Pierce County Council turned into something of a primer on the intersection of law enforcement and civil liberties in the form of a resolution authorizing an interlocal agreement to create the Tahoma Narcotics Enforcement Team.

Owing to some concerns over how the new multi-jurisdictional task force would be funded, the council voted to continue consideration of the resolution at its next meeting, July 21.

“The agreement before you replaces previous agreements that were between Pierce County jurisdictions and the Drug Enforcement Agency – that’s a federal agency,” council staff Jeff Cox said. “The objective is to provide enhanced and more effective use of personnel and equipment.”

The proposed interlocal agreement, Proposal No. R2020-22, would involve Pierce County, Auburn, Bonney Lake, Lakewood, Puyallup, Tacoma, the Pierce County Sheriff, the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney and Washington State Department of Corrections. According to the text of the resolution, “Individual employees participating in Tahoma Narcotics Enforcement Team (“TNET”) are also assigned to a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Task Force, known as DEA Group D-25, by separate agreement.”

Council member Derek Young was the first to voice concerns about TNET being largely funded through assets seized and forfeited under state law.

“I am really not a fan of civil forfeiture in general,” he said, noting that it creates a perverse incentive for law enforcement. “I cannot support this if this is going to be the way we pay for this.”

Young was joined by council members Pam Roach, Marty Campbell and Connie Ladenburg, all of whom expressed similar misgivings, prompting a unanimous vote to carry over the resolution to the council’s next meeting.