A special unit of Prince George's County police officers that has made more than 325 drug-related arrests since June will be disbanded Dec. 9, according to Capt. Ernest Riess, commander of the Seat Pleasant station.
The unit, known as the "Wolf Pack," was mostly responsible for curbing the sale of phencyclidine, or PCP, a tranquilizer that often causes violent behavior.
The disbanding comes just weeks after county prosecutors, overwhelmed by the increasing number of cases involving distribution of PCP, eased prosecution policies, sending many of the cases to the lower District Court as misdemeanors rather than to Circuit Court, where they would have been tried as felonies.
The new prosecution procedure, developed by State's Attorney Arthur A. Marshall, angered some police officers, who complained that it allowed some of those arrested to slide through the judicial process and resume their dealing on the street quickly.
But Riess said yesterday that the decision to disband the seven-member Wolf Pack unit had nothing to do with the new prosecution policies. Arrests have tapered off, he said, and the officers are needed in other areas during the busy holiday season.
"We've seen a marked decrease in the number of arrests that we're attributing to the cold weather," Riess said.
Sgt. Raymond Gheen, leader of "Wolf Pack," said the squad's effectiveness could also account for the dropoff in arrests; namely deals are being made less often and less publicly. The number of drug-related arrests fell from 79 in June to 35 last month. Gheen also said that since June the task force has confiscated $66,210 in illegal drugs, $17,357 in cash and $5,401 in stolen property.
The squad's six officers and one sergeant will resume their regular duties, permitting other officers to be used on foot and car patrols.
Hyattsville, which operates the only similiar drug task force in the county, has decreased the number of officers on its force, but numbers were not immediately available, according to Gheen.
Riess said he has no plans to revive the unit after the holidays.