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Pubdate: April 22, 1998 Source: Globe and Mail (Canada) Contact: http://www.globeandmail.ca/ Author: Robert Matas POLICE OFFICER SLAMS THE WAR ON DRUGS Vancouver Constable Delivers Scathing Attack on Enforcement Operations An experienced Vancouver policeman has defied the city's police chief and publicly delivered a scathing attack on police efforts to respond to widespread drug use in Canada. Offering a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the force, Constable Gil Puder criticized officers who make drug arrests to further their own careers, and senior managers who publicize gang crime and drug money to push for bigger budgets. Constable Puder accused police representatives of misinforming the public about the dangers associated with drug use. Some officers have unnecessarily shot and killed unarmed people while making drug arrests, he said, adding that until police accept that they cannot win the war on drugs, this unnecessary killing will continue. Constable Puder, who has been a member of the Vancouver police force for at least 15 years, has previously spoken out in favour of decriminalizing heroin and cocaine. But he has never been so outspoken about the operations of police involved in drug enforcement. Earlier this week, Vancouver Police Chief Bruce Chambers could participate in a public conference held yesterday on the problems caused by illegal drugs in cities. Sponsored by the Vancouver-based Fraser institute, the day-long session included speakers from Liverpool, London, Switzerland, San Francisco and Toronto. In an internal memo, Chief Chambers told Constable Puder not to give the speech he had prepared ? titled Recovering Our Honour: Why Policing Must Reject the War on Drugs ? or speak about his paper at the conference. I wish to make it quite clear, this order prohibits any verbal or written presentation, in whole or in part, of the material prior to, during or subsequent to the conference, Chief Chambers stated. Constable Puder could make a presentation at the conference if and only if, after my review, I am satisfied that the material is appropriate, factual and meets the high standards expected of a member of the Vancouver police department, the chief added. the order was necessary, Chief Chambers stated, to prevent you from bringing discredit upon the reputation of the Vancouver police department. The chief warned that failure to comply with the order could result in disciplinary action. Nevertheless, Constable Puder rose from his seat late yesterday afternoon and walked to the front to make his comments. While strongly believing in devotion to duty, he told the group of about 75 participants, I subordinate the unique requirements of my profession to my responsibilities as a human being, a parent and Canadian citizen who has no desire to raise his children in a country torn by needless criminality. Outlawing narcotics and trying to enforce the law is history's most expensive failed social experiment, said Constable Puder, who is also a part-time instructor at the BC Police Academy. Billions of dollars and countless lives have been spent to prove that criminal prohibition does not protect society, he added. His criticisms of police enforcement include: - -Drug-related arrests can be extremely easy and officers who make arrests are rewarded with promotions and large amounts of overtime pay to cover time in court. But police rarely catch the wealthy drug lords. Arrests usually involve poor, hungry people on street corners or in rooming-houses and filth-strewn alleyways. - - Self-proclaimed police drug experts readily contradict scholarly analyses and medical research with smear tactics and conjecture. Las-enforcement spin-doctoring reinforces the theory that truth is war's first casualty. - -When applying to the police force, many people confess to having used marijuana as teen-agers. We can be painfully sensitive to appearances of institutionalized hypocrisy. As an alternative to the war on drugs, Constable Puder advocated fundamental changes in police strategies as well as a government-regulated distribution system for marijuana and research projects on the decriminalization of narcotics. Chief Chambers was not available yesterday for an interview.