Pubdate: Tue, 22 Nov 2005
Source: Western Front, The (Western Washington Univ., WA Edu)
Copyright: 2005 The Western Front
Author: Tom King
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


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 

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."