Pubdate: Sun, 12 Jun 2011
Source: AlterNet (US Web)
Copyright: 2011 Independent Media Institute
Author: Norm Stamper, former chief of the Seattle Police Department, and an
advisory board member of NORML and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
(LEAP). He is the author of Breaking Rank: A Top Cop's Expose of the
Dark Side of American Policing (Nation Books, 2005).


For More Than Three Decades, I Watched the Drug War Destroy Values 
That, As a Cop, I Swore to Uphold.

It's not hard to explain why I morphed from drug warrior to drug
policy reformer.   I observed unnecessary suffering, justice gone wrong,
and widespread corruption within policing. I witnessed the physical
deterioration of whole neighborhoods--streets, homes, and schools
made less safe.

And I saw myself and fellow police officers cast as the "bad guys" in
the enforcement of drug laws.

In the late 1960s, I worked alongside one of the most dangerous cops I
would ever meet. He didn't beat people, didn't even call them names.
In fact, he was one of the most soft-spoken, decent cops you'd ever
want to encounter. Unless he thought you were holding.

In which case he would find--or invent--cause to rip your car apart,
invade your pants pockets or purse, or storm your dorm in quest of a
leaf, stem, or seed that would justify a drug bust.

I also recall vividly a moment in 1988 when I responded to a drug raid
gone bad. A 56-year-old civilian navy instructor, deeply opposed to
drug use, made the mistake of opening his door with a TV remote in
hand. When I got there, the body was just being bagged. His family
would never understand. The cop who shot him would never be the same.

And some 35 years ago, my friend, Connie, a beautiful, slender woman,
was dying. My wife, Patricia, and I drove her to dialysis three times
a week. We took her to restaurants and movies (where, because of her
illness, we sat in the front row so she could distinguish between
Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman in All the President's Men).

As she grew thinner and weaker, Connie stopped venturing out of her
dark, stuffy apartment. One hot summer afternoon, she took Patricia's
advice: She donned jeans and a halter top and left the apartment for
the 7-Eleven a block and a half away. As she gave the clerk a 5-dollar
bill for the iced tea she'd taken from the cooler, a hand violently
seized her bird-like wrist. A voice demanded, "And what's this?"
Connie had not seen the uniformed cop standing behind her.

Terrified, shaking, and humiliated, our friend explained her medical
condition and the reason for the tracks on her arm. The cop left in a
huff, no apology. Connie would never again go out in public by
herself. Three months later, she died alone at the age of 32.

Heart-wrenching stories are inevitable in a nation that has chosen
prohibition as its model for drug policy, a nation that has
criminalized a disease--drug addiction.

Over the past 40 years, we've spent a trillion dollars prosecuting the
drug war. We've jailed tens of millions of Americans for nonviolent
offenses, ruined countless young lives, turned neighborhoods into
armed battlegrounds, done major damage to the Bill of Rights,
destabilized the political and economic policies of foreign countries,
and tacitly granted commercial and regulatory monopolies to
traffickers from Afghanistan to Jamaica, L.A. to New York. U.S. drug
policy is the proximate cause of 37,000 deaths in Mexico alone since

Someday we'll wise up. The only true solution to the horrific
financial and human costs of the drug war is to end it--to legalize and
regulate drugs.

According to Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron, drug legalization would
save $77 billion a year. It would free up close to half the nation's
prison cells, reserving them for violent offenders. We would be able
to invest substantially more time, money, and imagination in
prevention, education, and drug treatment. And, we would make our
communities much safer and healthier.
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.