Pubdate: Wed, 10 Jul 2002
Source: News & Observer (NC)
Copyright: 2002 The News and Observer Publishing Company
Author: Laurie McDonald


I was saddened, but not shocked, to read your June 30 story ("Drug cops' 
shock waves") about corruption in the Davidson County Sheriff's Office. It 
is a familiar story, and not a new one.

The corruption is happening here and abroad. It happened in the 1920s and 
'30s as well, when the illegal drug was alcohol. The promise of outrageous 
profits from the sale of illegal drugs has long undermined many public 
officials' mission to uphold the law.

The officers in Davidson County were profiting from the War on Drugs 
illegally. Many police departments and prosecutors' offices are profiting 
from it legally through asset forfeiture.

Under current law the government can seize property believed to be 
connected with the sale of illicit drugs without a conviction or even a 
criminal charge. California Superior Court Judge James P. Gray calls civil 
asset forfeiture laws "one of the largest and most invasive challenges to 
our Bill of Rights protections."

The War on Drugs has failed. Erosion of civil liberties and of public trust 
in law enforcement are just two illustrations of this failure. We must make 
fundamental changes in our approach to drug use. Our elected officials must 
stop hiding behind sound bites about being tough on crime. It is time for 
them to tackle this issue in all of its complexity. And it is time for us 
as voters to demand that they do so. There have been enough casualties already.

Laurie McDonald

Chapel Hill
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