Pubdate: Mon, 05 Dec 2011
Source: Miami Herald (FL)
Copyright: 2011 Miami Herald Media Co.
Author: Glenn Garvin


I owe Kyle Vogt an apology. A former military policeman, he's now a
member of a group called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, or LEAP,
a group of former cops, prosecutors and judges that supports ending
the war on drugs.

When I interviewed Vogt for a column earlier this year, everything he
said about the high cost and low results of the war on drugs made
perfect sense. But he made one claim which, though I smiled politely,
I didn't believe and didn't use in my column: that dozens and dozens
of drug cops have contacted LEAP to express their support.

"They're afraid," Vogt said. "Any policeman who says he thinks drugs
should be legalized gets fired." In civil-liberties-conscious America,
patrolled by attack squadrons of ACLU lawyers? Get real, buddy, I
thought. The war on drugs does enough damage without piling on with
paranoid delusions.

But in the war on drugs, the line between paranoia and reality turns
out to be a thin one indeed. Over the weekend, The New York Times
carried a story on Bryan Gonzalez, a young agent fired by the U.S.
Border Patrol. Grounds for dismissal: Gonzalez told another agent that
legalizing marijuana would save lives both in the United States and
Mexico. And he mentioned LEAP.

When the other agent reported the conversation to his superiors, it
triggered an internal affairs investigation that ended with an
official letter dismissing Gonzalez for holding "personal views that
were contrary to core characteristics of Border Patrol Agents, which
are patriotism, dedication and esprit de corps."

For starters, that sentence is a flat-out lie. The Border Patrol's
"core values," according to its own web page, are serving the American
public "with vigilance, integrity and professionalism." There's not a
single word about patriotism, dedication or esprit de corps.

But what if there was? Since when is it unpatriotic to advocate a
change in the U.S. criminal code? If Gonzalez had told his fellow
Border Patrol agent that he thought prison terms for drug smugglers
should be doubled, would that have been unpatriotic, too?

Gonzalez did not light up a joint or bring a pan of Alice B. Toklas
brownies to work. He did not let a drug smuggler go. He did not even
sell guns to the Sinaloa Cartel. (Though, to be fair, that's
apparently not a firing offense in the Obama administration.) All he
did was express an opinion.

But, as Kyle Vogt tried to tell me, having the wrong opinion about the
war on drugs is enough to get you fired from a law-enforcement job
these days:

* Last month, former Arizona probation officer Joe Miller filed suit
to get his job back after being fired for signing a letter in support
of a ballot initiative (in another state!) to legalize personal use of

* Jonathan Wender, a sergeant in the Mountlake Terrace, Washington,
police department, was fired for supporting the decriminalization of
marijuana. He won a court case that got him an $815,000 settlement
plus his job back, but decided to quit anyway.

* Canada, which hosted so many American draft dodgers trying to stay
out of the war in Vietnam, is apparently taking a less tolerant view
of dissent from its own war on drugs. When city officials in Victoria,
British Columbia, invited local cop David Bratzer to give a speech
outlining his support for legalization, Bratzer's chief canceled it,
then warned him not to criticize drug laws while within the city

Clearly, the war on drugs has escalated to a war on talking about the
war on drugs.

I'm sorry I doubted Vogt. As the old joke goes, even paranoids have
real enemies. Though nobody's laughing at this one.
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MAP posted-by: Matt