HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Losing The Drug War
Pubdate: Mon, 6 Jul 1998
Source: Calgary Sun (Canada) 
Author: Bill Kaufmann Calgary Sun



Gil Puder has waged the war on drugs and seen its failure and attendant
propaganda for what it is.

For Puder, it's impossible to ignore -- he's a Vancouver police constable on
the un-winnable conflict's frontline.

The trophies showcased by narcotics officers -- their drug seizures -- are
astutely identified by Puder as flags of failure.

If the strategy of realizing a relatively drug-free society were working,
such exhibitionism would be infinitely more infrequent. But for now, the tip
of the iceberg show-and-tell is one way to justify their budgets.

It's only one observation in a compelling recent presentation Puder made to
the conservative Fraser Institute.

The entire police ethos and the mandate to serve and protect has been
compromised and tainted by the counterproductive assault on liberty,
personal choice and addiction, writes Puder.

"The tactics, weaponry and propaganda of our 20th century narcotic
prohibition have been borrowed from a western military model, yet in their
misguided application have generated nothing other than systemic conflict
that has overwhelmed our justice and health-care systems," says Puder.

Certainly, police anti-drug strategies are a product of discredited
legislation, but Puder is clearly repelled by the attitudes and tactics of
his colleagues.

An atmosphere of cowboy machismo focused on compiling arrest statistics with
little hope of concrete progress is a hallmark of the narcotics' units'
world, he says.

Dehumanizing and arresting the criminalized users while wealthy dealers take
smarmy refuge behind their money and lawyers is the daily dichotomy, he adds.

"With fiscal restraint and 'fear of crime' combining to place enormous and
often unrealistic expectations on police services, it's easy to be
pessimistic that open-mindedness will be rediscovered soon," he laments.

He sees the lives of citizens and fellow-officers being risked needlessly to
a culture of violence created by a lucrative black market fueled by prohibition.

In 1984, Puder tasted the horror when he shot to death an addict robbing a
bank, armed with a replica gun.

The four-year head of the Calgary Police Services' drug unit dismisses Puder
as "absolutely out to lunch."

Puder, adds Staff Sgt. Mike Cullen, would find little sympathy among most
officers, something the maverick cop would undoubtedly wear as a badge of honor.

But at the same time, Cullen agrees the war on drugs is a futile one -- with
the resources being allocated now.

"He may be right on that point -- it's not working," says Cullen, who
attended the Fraser Institute conference.

Part of Cullen's solution: More money for enforcement.

But considering the American experience of pouring tens of billions of
dollars down prohibition's black hole, it's a dubious proposition.

To be fair, Cullen also champions two other prongs -- harm reduction and
education. Whether law enforcement compliments them is questionable.

"There's no easy answer," says the staff sergeant.

In the meantime, money and energy that could be used for education,
treatment and other policy alternatives will continue to be wasted on our

Copyright (c) 1998, Canoe Limited Partnership.

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Checked-by: Melodi Cornett