For the third year in a row, the Missouri Narcotics Officers Association has named Jackson County’s locally funded drug task force the best law-enforcement unit in the state.

“I think this has been a good run for the Jackson County Drug Task Force,” County Executive Mike Sanders said Monday.

County residents pay a one-quarter cent sales tax – the community-based anti-drug tax, widely known as COMBAT – to fund a wide range of anti-drug efforts, from prevention programs such as DARE to law enforcement and prosecution.

“That is a rare, rare thing that is done with essentially local funding,” Sanders said.

The drug task force covers all of Eastern Jackson County, drawing in officers from various jurisdictions.

Last year, the task force made 177 arrests that led to 205 cases being presented for possible prosecution – more than half of those being federal cases, officials say.

“This isn’t low-level street crime,” said Sanders, who is a former county prosecutor. “This is high-end drug trafficking.”

That work in 2013 also involved seizing more that $7.5 million in drugs, including 29 pounds of methamphetamine, 606 pounds of marijuana and close to 300 pounds of synthetic narcotics such as K-2 and bath salts.

Sanders cited the efforts of several key officials, including Sugar Creek Police Chief Herb Soule, who has long been active with the design and function of the task force.

“He’s a leader among local law enforcement,” Sanders said.

Soule was quick to credit others.

“The people who deserve the credit, first and foremost, are the people who work the squad,” he said.

Sanders also credited Sheriff Mike Sharp with re-energizing the task force in recent years. Sharp noted that it takes “a different breed of cat” to work narcotics.

“I don’t know why they do what they do, but I thank God every day that they do it for us,” Sharp said.

In addition to the award for the task force, its officer in charge, Dan Cummings, was named officer of the year. He also gave the credit to the officers on the streets.

“I think we’re doing some really great things and putting some really bad people in jail, which is really fun,” Cummings said.

The officials spoke at Monday’s meeting of the County Legislature. Legislators have a pending resolution in opposition to any attempts in Missouri to loosen marijuana laws. During a hearing last week, experts described for them the toll drugs take, particularly on young people. On Monday, there was no vote, as the resolution was held again.