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DNE History

In 1970, the Iowa Legislature approved the establishment of and funding for a new division within the Iowa Department of Public Safety. It was to be known as the Iowa Division of Narcotics and Drug Enforcement, i.e. DNDE. Governor Robert D. Ray appointed Wilbert Penberthy as the first DNDE director and decreed that fifteen Special Agents would staff the newly formed division. Up until that time, the Iowa Board of Pharmacy handled drug enforcement in Iowa on a state level. Several investigators would transfer from this Board to the new enforcement unit.

Penberthy had retired from a career in Federal law enforcement where he had worked as a Special Agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration. He was the supervising bureau chief in the Bangkok, Thailand office for five years prior to his retirement. His approach in establishing the new narcotics division at the state level was to pattern it after Federal drug enforcement. Many of the division's forms and procedures mirrored that of the DEA.

Starting in 1970 and continuing through 1971 fifteen agents transferred in or were hired.

Originally, the narcotics investigators worked out of the Des Moines headquarters. During 1971 to 1972, several field offices were established. These included offices in Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Sioux City, Council Bluffs, Waterloo and Mason City. Since money was not available for actual offices in these locations, agents assigned to one of these sites officed out of their homes or found space in state facilities that were located in or near these cities. Clerical staff was located at the Des Moines headquarters office. Hank Mayer was promoted as the first Assistant Director in 1971.

The primary function of the DNDE was to establish cases on major drug traffickers within the state of Iowa. It soon became apparent that Iowa's illicit drug activity exceeded its geographic boundaries because of the size of some of the organizations or the destinations to which the drugs were being moved.

One drug that became infamous in Iowa in the 1970's was marijuana. It grew native to Iowa soil. It had actually been actively cultivated prior to World War II for its hemp properties. Medical research established marijuana's active ingredient was THC, a controlled substance. Because of this finding, marijuana became illegal according to the Uniformed Controlled Substance Act of 1968. Iowa became a "hotbed" for illegal marijuana trafficking. Marijuana from operations were a priority for state agents in the 1970's and they continue to be investigated to this day.

Heroin was also found in the major metropolitan cities of Iowa, including Des Moines, Waterloo, Cedar Rapids and Davenport. Undercover drug busts were another major function of the DNDE. Cocaine was added to the list of drug enforcement problems in the late 1970's and throughout the 1980's.

Wil Penberthy retired as DNDE Director in 1974. Hank Mayer succeeded him.

In 1978, the Iowa Department of Public Safety reorganized its investigative functions by making the BCI and DNDE individual bureaus under the newly formed Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.

On September 4, 1987, the Department of Public Safety announced the reversion of narcotics enforcement to a separate status that is now called the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement (DNE). Hank Mayer returned as Division Director and Tom Hopewell was appointed as Assistant Director.

In the 1980's, with the cocaine epidemic taking over the drug scene, investigative procedures changed for the DNE. Undercover buys were no longer the exclusive area of concentration for the agents. Criminal networks required complex conspiracy investigations to be conducted. DNE was instrumental in proposing legislation to address money laundering and making it a specific crime in Iowa. It became common for DNE cases to be tried in Federal Court due to the magnitude of the drugs involved or the conspiracy nature of the cases presented.

DNE has long prided itself for working with numerous law enforcement agencies whether they are Federal, state, county or municipal. In 1975, DNE was one of the first agencies to designate agents to task force assignments. In this way, they assisted local law enforcement regardless of the scope of the drug dealing. The task force concept is commonplace today throughout Iowa and the United States. The numerous task forces within the state are overseen or assisted by the DNE.

Other "firsts" throughout the history of the DNE were:

It was the first agency to designate agents to compile narcotics intelligence exclusively.

It assigns agents to work drug diversion which are pharmaceutical investigations involving licensed prescribers.

It was the first law enforcement agency to utilize a drug dog.

DNE is charged by the Code of Iowa with providing training to local law enforcement agencies. In addition to teaching at the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy and the Department of Public Safety academies, instructors provide annual training for local departments' in-service schools as well as regional update training.

The methamphetamine problem that has flooded Iowa in the 1990's calls for other investigative techniques. The Department of Public Safety and DNE formed a clandestine laboratory team to combat the illegal manufacturing of illegal drugs. The current team is comprised of agents from the DNE and chemists from the Division of Criminal Investigations. The Iowa State Patrol assists the DNE agents when there is a need for additional personnel. Recently the Department of Public Safety and the DNE has sponsored training to certify county and local law enforcement officers and fire department personnel in the investigation, dismantling and disposal of clandestine laboratories.

In 1994, Ken Carter, was appointed Director of the DNE, succeeding Hank Mayer. Director Carter serves as Iowa's state coordinator for the recently formed Midwest High Intensity Drug Traffic Area (HIDTA). The Midwest HIDTA is composed of six Midwestern states: Iowa-Kansas-Missouri-Nebraska-North Dakota-South Dakota. The mission is to measurably reduce and disrupt the importation, distribution and clandestine manufacturing of methamphetamine in designated counties and municipalities in the six state region and other parts of the United States, thereby reducing the impact of illicit drugs and related violent criminal activity. The Midwest HIDTA was the first methamphetamine specific to be designated in the United States. There are currently 31 HIDTA's nationally.

Director Carter has served as vice-chair and chair of this HIDTA and currently remains active as budget subcommittee chair and executive board member.

Record seizures of numerous types of controlled substances involve DNE either through original initiation or case assistance.

In 2000, DNE had four additional agents appropriated through legislation. With these additional agents a field office was reopened in Fort Dodge.

Today the Division of Narcotics Enforcement has eighteen offices throughout the state, including the Headquarters Office located in Des Moines. Special Agents investigate major drug traffickers supplying the State of Iowa and tracing the investigations back to the drug source, clandestine laboratory investigations, gang investigations, pharmaceutical diversion investigations, and provides training to local police and fire departments. These investigations are conducted in cooperation with federal and out-of-state law enforcement agencies, and have led to successful prosecutions of drug suppliers in several states.

In addition to the investigative and enforcement responsibilities provided by the Division of Narcotics Enforcement, the Division coordinates other resources and services through the Governor’s Alliance on Substance Abuse, the Iowa National Guard, and the Department of Defense. Through the Governor’s Alliance on Substance Abuse, the Division oversees the dissemination and bookkeeping associated with all undercover funds disbursed to 24 local task forces. In addition, the Division also supports the task forces by supplying seized vehicles for investigative operations. The DNE coordinates analytical support for state and federal task forces throughout the state of Iowa with specially trained Iowa National Guard personnel.

Although drug trends have varied from DNE's inception in 1970, their dedication to serving Iowa in its drug enforcement effort has never wavered. From an original fifteen member unit, DNE has grown to forty eight sworn officers.

On June 27, 2008, Kevin R. Frampton, was appointed Director of the Division of Narcotics Enforcement, suceeding Ken Carter. To learn more about Director Frampton click here.


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