War On Drugs Is Harmful To Police Force


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Claiming to be the "world's leading drug policy newsletter," the Drug War Chronicle publishes a regular online feature called, "This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories." The typical newspaper reader probably comes across these cops-gone-bad stories pretty rarely. But, when hundreds of reports compiled over the past year from around the nation are read in one sitting, they add up to a hidden cost of America's ill-fated drug war - widespread corruption inside local police departments, prisons and jails.

Each year, American taxpayers spend tens of billions of dollars in a failed attempt to stop people from using illicit drugs. Courts, prisons and jails are filled with big-time drug runners and small-time marijuana users. All for what? According to the U.S. government's annual survey of drug use among persons aged 12 and older, in 2005 there were 14.6 million marijuana users, up from 9.8 million in 1995. And ******* users shot up from 1.5 million in 1995 to 2.4 million in 2005.

On top of that, the tax-funded drug war is corrupting our tax-funded drug warriors. Their code of silence, loyalty to other officers, and cynicism about the criminal justice system make police officers make police officers especially vulnerable to corruption. Rather than isolated individuals working alone, drug-related corruption is characterized by small groups of officers protecting and assisting one another in criminal activities.

Last year's corrupt cops stories included these from western states: Five Los Angeles, Calif., police officers were charged with belonging to a ring that committed armed robberies disguised as drug raids. The gang used police uniforms and sometimes LAPD patrol cars to raid houses suspected of drug dealing.

An FBI investigation netted guilty pleas or verdicts from 60 members of the U.S. military and Arizona law enforcement agencies who took bribes to traffic *******.

A Denver County, Colo., deputy sheriff was sentenced to four years in prison for smuggling marijuana into the Denver County jail.

A Tulsa, Okla., police officer was convicted of giving confidential information to a suspected drug dealer, tipping the suspect off of an impending raid.

In Texas, an Elsa City police officer was indicted for allegedly taking a $5,000 bribe to protect a ******* shipment.

As long as the demand for illicit drugs remain strong, attempts to cut off the supply will only make these drugs more valuable to the users, more profitable for the traffickers and an irresistible temptation for even more cops to cross over to the other side.

Joseph D. McNamara, a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and a former police chief of San Jose, Calif., frames the problem this way: "The sheer hopelessness of the task has led many officers to rationalize their own corruption. They say, 'Why should the enemy get to keep all the profits?' Guys with modest salaries are suddenly at $10,000 or more, and they go for it."

In an article titled, "When Cops Become the Gangsters," McNamara concludes, "Corruption will be a major problem as long as we cling to the present drug policies. The harm to good cops and society can be reduced if politicians abandon their demagogic calls for a police war against drugs.

Ronald Fraser, Ph.D, writes on public policy issues for DKT Liberty Project

Source: Oregon Daily Emerald
Author: Ronald Fraser, Ph.D
Copyright: 2007 Oregon Daily Emerald
Website: Oregon Daily Emerald - 24 hour University of Oregon news and sports
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