Pubdate: Tue, 22 Nov 2005 Source: Western Front, The (Western Washington Univ., WA Edu) Copyright: 2005 The Western Front Contact: http://westernfront.wwu.edu/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/994 Author: Tom King Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/people/Norm+Stamper Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/decrim.htm (Decrim/Legalization) FORMER POLICE CHIEF ADVOCATES LEGAL DRUGS Stamper Said Legalization Cuts Money for Organized Crime Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper advocated the decriminalization of drugs in a speech before a packed audience Wednesday in Arntzen Hall 4. Western sociology professor Ron Helms, who said he organized the event to expose the community to a controversial viewpoint, introduced Stamper to the audience. "When I see opportunities to bring people in who can offer insight and thereby stimulate public discourse on policy, I jump in," Helms said. The reasoning for decriminalizing drugs, Stamper said, comes from the largely ineffective war on drugs the Nixon administration started in 1971. In an excerpt from his new book, published in May and titled "Breaking Rank: A Top Cop's Expose on the Dark Side of American Policing," he said American taxpayers are financing the war on drugs at a price of more than $50 billion per year. So far this year, taxpayers spent $59 billion on the drug war; with more than $1 trillion spent since the 1970s, to no avail, he said. Near the end of his speech, he added that the government's anti-drug movement has placed all of the drug industry's power squarely in the hands of organized-crime leaders. The illegal drug market thrives on government drug prohibition because it can exploit customers by charging far more for an illegal substance than it cost to acquire. Should the government legalize drugs, it could tax distributors similar to the way it does with liquor stores, Stamper said. This would create less price exploitation, he said. Stamper said he wanted laws to regulate the age people could purchase or possess the drugs, similar to the alcohol laws police already enforce. "Anything that moves us toward a saner path is OK by me," he said. Stamper said the United States only prohibited the world's most dangerous intoxicant, alcohol, for a short time in the 1920s. "Alcohol is hands down the one drug that police officers and anyone else with eyes and mind open will acknowledge is the most damaging drug of all," he said. "It costs more in money, health costs, personal losses to individuals and their families than all other drugs combined." Stamper went on to recount an incident in which, as a 21-year-old recruit training to become a member of the San Diego Police Department, he was sitting with his colleagues in a local doughnut shop and heard a thunderous car crash nearby. A drunk driver slammed a Lincoln Continental into a tree. The impact propelled the woman sitting in the passenger's seat into the windshield before sending her flying into the backseat. "What I remember more than anything else is the smell of the booze because it just reeked," he said. Although Stamper calls for the legalization and regulation of all drugs, he believes certain professionals should be drug-free in all circumstances. Examples he gave included police officers, airline pilots, firefighters, soldiers or any other professionals whose job could put lives at stake if they performed under the influence. Stamper also advocated the legalization of prostitution. "It's long since past time to legalize and regulate the behavior in both the sex industry and drug scenes," Stamper said. On the subject of prostitution, Stamper said the U.S. government needs to make it a legitimate business and move it into brothels, as Canada did. This would make the practice safer, as prostitutes would no longer need to face dangers such as murder while walking the streets. Western senior Erica Rasmussen said she was surprised to hear Stamper's ideas in his speech. "I've never heard a police officer say 'we need to legalize drugs,' " she said. "I mean, he had a valuable point in that if it was legalized, it would be regulated. But it was just surprising to hear that firsthand."