- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 15, 2014

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The state’s Division of Criminal Investigation is in danger of losing seven task force officers who focus on drug offenses and Internet crimes against children because the federal money that paid for the positions has run out, Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michael told lawmakers.

Michael asked members of the Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee on Tuesday for $1.16 million to save the jobs.

Six of the positions originally were on the chopping block during a round of state budget cuts in 2009, but grants funded through federal stimulus let the state dodge the cuts and create a position to investigate crimes against children, he said.

“This was one of cases where the Legislature approved funding of positions with (stimulus) funds because it was the ability to keep positions that had already existed,” Michael, who oversees DCI, said.

The federal grants expired last year, and no other federal funds are available, he said.

DCI Director Steven Woodsen said it would be a great loss for the state’s law enforcement efforts if the positions are lost, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported.

Woodsen said the officers, who are stationed around the state, can help local communities or quickly respond to major cases or incidents.

“They have jurisdiction under us statewide,” he added. “If someone was working out of a Riverton office and we needed them in Cheyenne or Gillette for some offense or investigation, they can be there. That is the beauty of what the task force is all about.”

He and other officials said the task force officers also have proved to be effective in fighting drug and Internet crimes.

The five regional drug enforcement teams investigated 332 drug cases, nearly half of which were related to methamphetamine, in 2012. Those resulted in 401 arrests, the attorney general’s office reports.

And documents show the Internet Crimes Against Children Team investigated 165 cases and arrested 16 in 2012.

Gov. Matt Mead is recommending approval of the $1.16 million request for the 2015-16 budget.

Joint Appropriations is set to finish its budget hearings by Monday. Members then begin crafting their own proposals that will be introduced during the session that begins Feb. 10.

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Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, https://www.wyomingnews.com

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