California could soon see the largest layoff of peace officers in state history.
The newly approved state budget has no funding for nearly half the 484 sworn officers with the state Department of Justice.
Most are undercover drug agents with the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement.
The Special Agent in Charge of BNE’s San Jose office, Bob Cooke, says the expected layoffs of between 200 and 250 officers sends a strong message to the Mexican drug cartels.
"They don’t have to be on the lookout because no one’s coming," said Cooke. "We won’t be there, and local law enforcement is stretched real thin."
BNE spearheads 55 task forces across the state. They help cities fight drugs and gangs.
But the money to fund the 55 task forces has run out.
"It’s going to make it that much easier for these criminals to do their dirty work here," said Cooke.
The Silicon Valley is widely known as a command and control center for the Mexican cartels.
Cooke said they grow pot, cook meth, and ship heroin here.
"Even with the task force, it’s an uphill battle," said Kevin Kyle, Police Chief for the city of Santa Clara.
He says the winners in all this are the street level drug dealers all the way up to the cartels.
"The impact will be that these people enforcing the laws aren’t there. They’re going to be able to operate more efficiently," said Kyle.
BNE says the agency also gives needed assistance to small cities when they find themselves outgunned by the cartels using I-5 to traffic humans, guns and drugs.
"I think it gives them the message that they’re glad to hear. They can go about their business without being bothered," said Cooke.
Cooke said he hasn’t been told to clear out his desk, but he add there is no money in the current budget to fund him or his agents.
The Department of Justice is hoping it’ll find revenues elsewhere to keep the Bureau open, but Cooke isn’t too optimistic.