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Budget cuts dismantle state fugitive team

A special team of state law enforcement agents that chased violent fugitives has been disbanded in budget-cutting at the state Alcohol Law Enforcement agency.

The Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team was one of the special units that former ALE Director John Ledford created to expand the agency’s reach.

Ledford resigned as director in advance of the Republican takeover in January and made himself an agent, which led to his firing on the ground that it exceeded his authority. Ledford is contesting his firing. He has not yet been replaced.

Cutting the FAST unit is part of the $1.75 million hit ALE took in the state budget this year, which amounted to 20 percent of the money it receives from the state.

Two dozen law enforcement positions will be eliminated or shifted to other funding sources for the next fiscal year, after which the jobs will be abolished unless other funding is found, according to new report to legislators.

Agents who were assigned to FAST have returned to traditional assignments, according to the report by DPS Law Enforcement Commissioner Gregory Baker. The special unit was credited with catching more than 60 violent offenders during its first few months last year.

The budget cuts also will leave some management positions vacant, including that of assistant director. In all, the agency will have about 7 percent fewer sworn law enforcement officers to focus on alcohol, drugs and lottery violations.


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