A local law enforcement officer has been recognized for his efforts to combat drugs not only in Clay County, but also for helping federal authorities take the fight all the way to Mexico.
On Sept. 10, Clay County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Rob Gambill was one of 34 individuals in law enforcement agencies throughout Indiana recognized by United States Attorney Timothy M. Morrison at the annual Fall Law Enforcement Conference in Indianapolis.
Morrison presented Gambill with a citation in recognition for his "Outstanding Contribution to Prosecutions Resulting in Guilty Verdicts" by the Office of the United States Attorney, Southern District of Indiana and the United States Department of Justice.
"It was a surprise at first," Gambill told The Brazil Times about how he felt when learning about the citation. "I'm really honored to be recognized, but this wasn't just about me. There were a lot of people involved in this case."
Gambill was the lead investigator during the sheriff's department's involvement in the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) "Operation Ice Age" from January 2006-January 07. The investigation focused on the activities of three Mexican methamphetamine trafficking organizations operating in Indianapolis and distributing drugs to various locations along the Interstate-70 corridor to Terre Haute.
Officials couldn't ignore the impact of a methamphetamine supply line running through the county.
"It was really affecting Clay County. There were approximately 6-8 people circulating meth in the area with the help of several Clay County residents," Gambill said. "I'm grateful Sheriff Mike Heaton was open minded enough to not only see what was happening then, but to also see the future ramifications and support our efforts in the case."
Along with several other officers (who will not be identified due to their continued work on drug investigations), Gambill participated in conducting on-site surveillance, monitoring/intercepting telephone calls and serving search warrants in various counties throughout Indiana.
The investigation led to the dismantling of three separate drug trafficking organizations, the indictment and conviction of 64 "big fish" defendants on federal charges and the seizure of more than 40 pounds of methamphetamine.
All this, according to Gambill, was going on while the CCSD was conducting its own drug investigations, which resulted in the April 2006 local drug raid and arrests of more than 25 suspects. Officials have confirmed information obtained from the 2006 drug raid subsequently led to two more raids, one in August 2008 and another this past August.
"It was tough at times. We were gone a lot, away from our families for days at a time," Gambill said. "But the department was supportive. Our wives and families were too, which helps the guys' morale a lot in these types of situations. I appreciate all the help we have received along the way."
However, the grueling hours working drug cases with so many other agencies has created a new and invaluable asset for the department.
"You can't work a case that long without developing good working interdepartmental relationships and trust with other officers that carries over into other cases," Gambill said. "(The department) now has contacts at all levels in law enforcement in the state and at the federal level. We're a small department with limited resources, and these contacts have become valuable resources to us locally."
Sheriff Heaton is proud of Gambill's achievement and the work his department has put into fighting the local drug problem.
"Rob deserves this award," Heaton said. "Officers hear 'great job' every so often, but Rob's got something tangible now to hold on to. He's doing a great job, so is the department, but its not over yet."
Heaton and Gambill agree it would be nice to get a handle on the drug problem so department assets could be used in other areas to help the community, but the seemingly never-ending war to get drugs off the streets continues.
"Once drugs come into a community," Heaton said. "It has the potential to affect everyone in the future in some way."
"It's not just law enforcement's job to fight drugs," Gambill said. "Our community has to be alert and willing to be proactive in the war on drugs."
Although his current duties exclude him from leading drug investigations, Gambill helps oversee current cases.
"Every county, every city has problems connected with drugs. It's everywhere," Gambill said. "And while it might not get reported in the news in other areas as often as here in Clay County, it doesn't mean it's not happening. Here in Clay County, we refuse to stick our heads in the sand and ignore it. We're not going down without a fight."