Pubdate: Mon, 26 Feb 2007
Source: Oregon Daily Emerald (U of Oregon, OR Edu)
Copyright: 2007 Oregon Daily Emerald
Author: Ronald Fraser
Note: Ronald Fraser, Ph.D, writes on public policy issues for DKT 
Liberty Project


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 cocaine 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 cocaine.

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 cocaine 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
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman