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Why Do Police Really Oppose Marijuana Legalization?

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
The superb efforts of our friends at Law Enforcement Against Prohibition notwithstanding, police generally oppose efforts to reform marijuana laws. Initiatives in Colorado and Nevada were vehemently contested by law-enforcement interests, who claimed that reform would invite crime and undermine community safety. Sheriff Fred Wagner of Park County, CO even tried to link marijuana reform efforts to a recent school shooting.

Intuitively, there's nothing surprising about police lobbying to retain the gratuitous powers granted them by the war on drugs. Yet, as marijuana arrests reach a new record high each year, it becomes increasingly difficult to point towards any societal benefit to these costly attacks on otherwise law-abiding Americans. Because I believe most officers really do want to protect the communities they serve and make a difference, I have often pondered their willful enforcement of, and political support for, a war that endangers communities while failing to a make a difference.

I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, to learn that Joplin, MO Police Chief Lane Roberts has pledged not to oppose a local marijuana decriminalization initiative. Roberts correctly defines his role as defending the constitution rather than opining on what the law ought to be. But he goes on to explain that officers sometimes overreact to policy changes that reduce police authority:
When asked how his officers had reacted to the decriminalization of pot possession in Oregon and in Washington State where he previously headed up departments, Roberts reclined in his office chair and smiled.

"When that law was first passed, most police officers thought that the end of the world as we know it was about to occur," he said. "But, we thought the same thing when the Miranda decision came down." [Joplin Globe]

Miranda is such a wonderful analogy for law-enforcement's knee-jerk assumption that any restriction on police power will invite pure chaos. The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Miranda v. Arizona that police must inform criminal suspects of their 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination before conducting interrogations provoked panic among police. Murderers and rapists would go free, we were told, and crimes of the most despicable nature would become unsolvable.

The result was nothing of the sort. Police simply became more professional. It turned out that the freakiest psycho killers still insisted on confessing their misdeeds, while the rest got taken down through good old-fashioned police work. "You have the right to remain silent…" has become a popular and familiar symbol of due process, and the horror show predicted by law enforcement has been long forgotten.

The point here is that it was the experts, the interrogation specialists themselves, who were so wrong about Miranda. Today, when police speak out against marijuana reform, they are motivated not by experience at all, but rather a fear of the unknown. Indeed, today's officers simply have no real frame of reference for what law-enforcement in a post-drug war America would look like.

I'm optimistic, however, that whatever our friends at LEAP can't explain to their colleagues will ultimately find a way to explain itself. Inevitably, the truth about drug policy reform will become self-evident each and every time it is given the opportunity to do so.

News Hawk- User http://www.420Magazine.com
Source: StoptheDrugWar.org
Author: Scott Morgan
Contact: drcnet@drcnet.org
Copyright: StoptheDrugWar.org
Website: Why Do Police Really Oppose Marijuana Legalization?
 

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Yesterday's post failed to address the prevalence of police officers who privately oppose the drug war, but silently uphold it even though they know it's wrong. My argument is quite incomplete without addressing this important phenomenon.

LEAP director Jack Cole has told me that police constantly admit to him in confidence that they agree with LEAP's arguments. Former Seattle Police Chief and LEAP speaker Norm Stamper has also stated that several high-ranking police officials have privately commended his efforts to end the drug war.

How then do we explain the behavior of police who carry out a war they don't believe in? Are they just following orders and collecting their paychecks? Are they fearful that speaking out will compromise their status within a profession they otherwise enjoy? Do they believe the laws are here to stay, so someone has to enforce them? Are some just waiting for their pension to kick in before joining LEAP?

I'm sure all of these factors contribute here, but I suspect that many officers have a more nuanced view of drug enforcement. I once asked a highly-regarded police sergeant what he thought of a controversial teenage curfew law aimed at curbing crime in D.C. "It's a useful tool," he replied, meaning that it gave him the authority to take action against suspicious youths in the absence of other evidence. If he can't prove they're out tagging cars, he can at least stop them and send them home.

Drug laws, particularly marijuana, perform a similar function by granting police the discretion to forgive or destroy individual suspects based solely on their demeanor and the contents of their pockets. Police can ignore the smell of marijuana when dealing with a polite citizen, or fabricate it entirely when they believe someone's hiding something. A law that criminalizes vast portions of the population, justifying detentions, searches and arrests, is a "useful tool" indeed. Officers needn't believe they're winning the war on drugs to find value in the vast authority it bestows upon them.

Wielding inflated drug war powers with the best of intentions may help some officers justify their participation in something they otherwise find distasteful. Of course, none of this justifies the massive collateral damage that occurs in the process, but it might help explain how conscientious people could engage in behavior that shocks the conscience.



News Hawk- User http://www.420Magazine.com
Source: StoptheDrugWar.org
Author: Scott Morgan
Contact: drcnet@drcnet.org
Copyright: StoptheDrugWar.org
Website: Why Do Police Really Oppose Marijuana Legalization? Part II | Stop the Drug War (DRCNet)
 
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