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Welcome to the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement home page. It is our goal to serve the citizens of Iowa to investigate illegal narcotic operations within the State of Iowa and work with authorities outside the State to stop the distribution, manufacturing and abuse of illegal narcotics.

Created in 1987, the Division of Narcotics Enforcement (DNE) was established to serve as the lead agency in the state providing public safety through investigative enforcement of laws relating to narcotics and other controlled substances. In addition to targeting major distributors/sources of controlled substances, the Division is actively involved in the investigation of drug-related financial conspiracies, clandestine laboratories, marijuana eradication, the diversion of pharmaceuticals, gang-related activities, and assistance in drug interdictions. Successful investigations and prosecutions of drug cases are due in large part to the Division's cooperative efforts with other local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies

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Division of Narcotics Enforcement Mission


“With pride and integrity, provide a professional service to the people in significantly reducing the supply of illicit controlled substances through specialized enforcement and training.”

In carrying out our mission as the agency responsible for enforcing the controlled substances laws and regulations of the State of Iowa, the DNE’s primary responsibilities include:

  • Investigation and preparation for the prosecution of violators of controlled substance laws operating at intrastate, interstate, and international levels.
  • Investigation and preparation for prosecution of criminals and drug trafficking organizations who perpetrate violence in our communities and terrorize citizens through fear and intimidation.
  • Seizure and forfeiture of assets derived from, traceable to, or intended to be used for illicit drug trafficking.
  • Enforcement of the provisions of the Controlled Substances Act, Federal and State of Iowa, as they pertain to the manufacture, distribution, and dispensing of legally produced controlled substances.
  • Coordination and cooperation with federal, state, and local law enforcement officials on mutual drug enforcement efforts and enhancement of such efforts through exploitation of potential intrastate, interstate, and international investigations beyond local or state jurisdictions and resources.
  • Coordination and cooperation with federal, state and local agencies, and with foreign governments, in programs designed to reduce the availability of illicit abuse-type drugs on the Iowa and United States market through non-enforcement methods.
Division of Narcotics Enforcement History

By Roger Timko

In 1970, the Iowa Legislature approved the establishment 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 (DNDE). Governor Robert D. Ray appointed Wilbert Penberthy as the first DNDE director and decreed that 15 Special Agents would staff the newly formed division. Up until that time, the Iowa Board of Pharmacy handled drug enforcement in Iowa on the state level. Several investigators transferred 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 (DEA). He was the 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.

Division takes shape in the 70s

Continuing through 1971, 15 agents transferred in or were hired to the DNDE, and agents were assigned 800 series numbers while the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) agents were issued numbers in the 600 range. The Iowa State Patrol had already established a policy that a trooper’s vehicle number, including the radio call numbers and license plate number, and the officer’s badge number would be the same.

Originally, the narcotics investigators worked out of the Des Moines headquarters office. During 1971 to 1972, several field offices were established. These included offices in:

  • Cedar Rapids
  • Davenport
  • Sioux City
  • Council Bluffs
  • Waterloo
  • Mason City

At that time, there was a clerical staff of two located at the Des Moines headquarters. 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. In 1971, G. “Hank” Mayer, who was one of the first 15 agents with the Division, was promoted to the first Assistant Director position within the Division.

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

Marijuana grows up, heroin and cocaine move in

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 as 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 grow 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. Cocaine was added to the list of drug enforcement problems in the late 1970’s through the 1980’s.

Division reorganizes to focus on narcotics

Wilbert Penberthy retired as DNDE Director in 1974 and G. “Hank” Mayer succeeded him.

In 1978, the Iowa Department of Public Safety reorganized its investigative functions by combining the BCI and DNDE under the newly formed Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI).

On September 4, 1987, the Department of Public Safety announced a renewed emphasis on narcotics enforcement by creating the Division of Narcotics Enforcement (DNE). G. “Hank” Mayer returned as Division Director and Tom Hopewell was appointed 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 enforcement agencies whether they are federal, state, county or municipal. In 1975, it 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, and the DNE oversees or assists with numerous task forces within the state.

DNE milestones

Other “firsts” throughout the history of the DNE include:

  • First Iowa law enforcement agency to designate agents to compile narcotics intelligence exclusively.
  • Assigns agents to work drug diversion which are pharmaceutical investigations involving licensed prescribers.
  • First law enforcement agency to utilize a drug dog. Mike and handler, Special Agent Roger Timko, worked state institutions, as well as street assignments starting in 1979.
  • Assembled the first Methamphetamine Lab Team in the state in 1992 through the Department of Public Safety.
  • Received statutory authority in 1989 to conduct wire intercept investigations (drug specific at that time).

State initiative provides training

DNE is charged by the Code of Iowa with providing training to county and municipal law enforcement agencies. In addition to teaching at the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy and Department of Public Safety academics, instructors provide annual training for local departments’ in-service schools as well as regional update training. DNE is presently training local law enforcement in handling methamphetamine lab investigations.

Clandestine lab team answers meth flood in the 90s

The methamphetamine problem that flooded Iowa in the 1990’s called for other investigative techniques. Over the past seven years, Iowa has been subject to consistent and dramatic increases in the number of clandestine methamphetamine laboratories seized. To meet this threat, the Division of Narcotics Enforcement and the Department of Public Safety formed the Clandestine Laboratory Emergency Response Team (CLERT), which is comprised of specially trained law enforcement officers from the Division of Narcotics Enforcement, the Iowa State Patrol, the State Fire Marshal’s Office, and chemists from the Division of Criminal Investigation.

This team provides assistance to federal, state, county and municipal law enforcement throughout the State of Iowa. The team responds to requests within the Department and from other law enforcement agencies in the state. The clandestine lab team enters and dismantles methamphetamine laboratories, and provides safe and environmentally sound disposal procedures for chemicals found in the laboratory. A total of 10 DNE agents and one Special Agent in Charge are assigned full-time to the clan lab team.

The DNE evolution continues with successful prosecutions

Today, the Division of Narcotics Enforcement operates 18 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.

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 15-member unit, DNE grew to 48 agents.   Also in 1999 to 2000, the DNE added two additional field offices and 16 new Special Agents.   Today DNE now has an operation spanning a total of 18 field offices with 35 sworn agents.