Airman Helps Fight War On Drugs
by U.S. Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Megan Shepherd
November 3, 2019
The United States is in the midst of a devastating opioid
epidemic. The misuse of and addiction to opioids is a serious
national crisis that affects public health as well as social and
In 2017, Ohio had the second highest rate
of drug overdose deaths involving opioids in the U.S., according to
the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
National Guard Counterdrug Task Force provides support to Law
Enforcement Agencies and Community Based Organizations in order to
enhance their efforts to counter the drug threat and anticipate,
deter, and defeat the threat of illegal substances, trafficking and
violence in Ohio.
One of the agencies they support is
Cleveland’s Drug Enforcement Administration office.
is a federal law enforcement agency under the U.S. Department of
Justice tasked with combating drug trafficking and distribution
within the U.S. For over 40 years the DEA has been the federal
government’s greatest weapon in the fight against the illegal drug
Another area the Counterdrug Task Force supports is
the Crime Strategies Unit at the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s
“The CSU is committed to understanding the nature of
the crimes facing our communities,” said Eleina Thomas, Managing
Attorney of the CSU at the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office. “We
are invested in identifying the crime drivers in each community.”
The mission of the CSU is to harness the collective resources of
the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office to develop and implement
intelligence-driven prosecution strategies that address crime issues
and target priority offenders.
Through these partnerships,
the Ohio National Guard directly supports criminal investigations
connected to the illegal drug nexus.
Criminal analysis is one
of the primary efforts that the Ohio National Guard Counterdrug
Program uses to support the fight against drugs. Criminal analysts
combine their unique civilian skills with the capabilities gained
through their military service to help support the Counterdrug Task
One analyst, Tech. Sgt. Michael Hilliard, operations
intelligence specialist at the 179th Airlift Wing, Mansfield, Ohio,
and criminal analyst with the Ohio National Guard Counterdrug Task
Force, actually works part-time at both the Cleveland DEA office and
the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office CSU.
August 1, 2019 - Tech. Sgt. Michael Hilliard, operations intelligence specialist at the 179th Airlift Wing, Mansfield, Ohio, and criminal analyst with the Ohio National Guard Counterdrug Task Force in front of a bulletin board in his office at the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office, Cleveland, Ohio. As a criminal analyst, Hilliard combines his unique civilian skills with the capabilities gained through his military service to help support the Counterdrug Task Force and their fight against drugs. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Megan Shepherd)
“These agencies are already cooperating,” said Hilliard. “I just
happen to have a foot in both worlds to help from both sides.”
There is definitely a connection between violent crime and
drugs, said Thomas, so it has been beneficial having Hilliard at the
“He’s been able to bridge the gap
between our office, the DEA, as well as the local law enforcement
narcotics units,” said Thomas. “He is able to look at our cases here
and see what the connections are to current investigations. We’ve
been able to suggest proffering certain individuals based on the
information that Hilliard has discovered.”
He has also
brought technology to the prosecutor’s office that has been
“We’ve been doing some cellphone mapping,” said
Thomas. “We didn’t have that before Hilliard was here. He has also
brought his knowledge on mapping different crime patterns and trends
so that we’ve been able to look at areas that are potentially
causing issues with violent crime as well as drug interdiction.”
One of the strengths of the CSU is its intelligence driven
proactive approach, said Andy Rogalski, an Assistant Prosecuting
Attorney for the CSU.
“The traditional prosecutorial model
is very reactive,” said Rogalski, “where a law enforcement agency
does the investigation and then a prosecutor gets the case after the
fact. However, the CSU works with law enforcement from the beginning
to help figure out who is committing these crimes.”
said he is able to help law enforcement, from the beginning,
identify individuals responsible and directly see that impact.
“Everything from the initial, we think this person or phone is
responsible, to identifying that person and actually locking them
up,” said Hilliard. “That’s probably the best feeling, when you get
someone off the streets that you know has been related to fatal and
When dealing with these complex cases
that involve an enormous amount of data and records, traditionally a
prosecutor or a detective doesn’t have enough resources to look
through thousands of pages of records, said Rogalski. That’s where
Hilliard is able to come in and help.
“Our analyst has been
able to help with sorting through that data, analyzing that data,
and then turning that raw data into something that everyone can
understand,” said Rogalski.
Whether it’s mapping out the
locations of crimes or mapping out which towers a cell phone is
hitting, it allows them to make more connections and really hammer
in on who is committing these crimes, said Rogalski.
we’re able to analyze data to be more intelligent about who we’re
prosecuting, we can have a greater impact on the community than the
traditional method,” said Rogalski. “We’ve seen some successful
results with the help of Hilliard. With his assistance, particularly
with technology, we’ve been able to make an impact that we would not
have been able to make 5 years ago, let alone 10 years ago, 20 years
Hilliard has been able to use his skills, both from
the civilian and military, to be successful in this career.
Hilliard is from Northeast Ohio, so he has the privilege of working
with counterdrug in an area where he grew up. He is trying to give
back and contribute to the community.
“We have ways to help
our community and citizens of the state beyond our one weekend a
month and two weeks in the summer,” said Hilliard. “It’s not always
about deploying somewhere else or hurricane and emergency response.
This is an additional way that we can help the community.”
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