Law Enforcement and Prohibition

A couple of things to talk about regarding law enforcement and prohibition.
“bullet” A fascinating article in Sunday’s Summit Daily News: The Task at Hand, by Reid Williams, comparing the approaches to the drug war in different counties in Colorado.
He starts by talking about some of the counties, like Summit, that are actively using task force money and building drug cases…

“I don’t think we’ll ever put ourselves out of work,” Woodman said.

Woodman’s statement reflects the diligence of a career law enforcement officer as much as it does the fatalism of a realist.æ He and the task force take their work seriously, but Woodman knows it’s an uphill battle.

On the one hand, Woodman said that as long as the people of the state of Colorado, and the United States, deem it appropriate that certain drugs are illegal, those laws will be enforced.

But on the other hand, Woodman said, “It’s frustrating.æ I could send my son out with $50, and in an hour he’d come back with whatever I asked for.”

…and shows the almost desperate attempts to justify the activity:

“Sure, every case we build is a success,” Woodman said.æ “It might sound clichÚ, but our success is the old adage: If we can change one person’s life, get them to where they’re no longer involved in that, we did well.æ And we’ve had that.”

(Of course, Woodman is not facing up to the fact that they’re not just changing one person’s life. They’re sending one to prison, and creating a job opening in crime for another person. Not something to be proud of.)
The article then moves on to Aspen:

For the past 17 years of his five terms as sheriff, Braudis has spoken out against undercover drug enforcement work and task forces, and his citizens have supported him.

Braudis believes the drug war was lost 30 years ago, that drug addiction is a medical issue not a legal issue and that, for his officers, it’s an expensive, dangerous and not-so-beneficial proposition.

They do enforce drug-related laws in Pitkin County.æ If a citizen calls in a complaint, deputies investigate.æ People pulled over for traffic stops with a stash in the glovebox still pout when it gets confiscated.

And if other agencies need to come in to Pitkin County to conduct a sting, Braudis gives them deputies to secure a perimeter or enhance the safety of an operation.æ But that’s where Braudis draws the line.

He doesn’t think task forces will find, much less catch, “Mr.æ Big.”

He must have some smart constituents.
And, of course, the article touches on a well-known sherriff against prohibition,

San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters agrees, even feels more strongly about the subject – he wrote a book called “Drug War Addiction.”

Masters likens the current attack on drugs to prohibition.æ In 1919, Congress approved the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, outlawing the manufacture, sale and transportation of intoxicating beverages.

Masters said that now, like the 1920s, the federal government is telling local governments what’s right and wrong, and the result is an increase in use of the prohibited substance and a rise in crime and violence surrounding it.

The sheriff said he just doesn’t see the sense in it.

“The year before Sept.æ 11 ( 2001 ), we busted 750,000 Americans for marijuana and one terrorist,” Masters said.æ “And ( Attorney General John ) Ashcroft is telling everyone we’ll fight the war on terror just like we fought the war on drugs.æ That’s how far from reality they are – – they’re busting bong manufacturers as if bongs cause people to use drugs.”

There are more stories, and the whole article is worth reading. Very well done and gives you a very interesting picture.
Which leads to:
“bullet” Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)
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You’ve heard me talk here before about LEAP — a really incredible organization of current and former law enforcement officials who oppose prohibition. They have a speakers bureau of qualified individuals who will talk at major events or Kiwanis club meetings. Look at their calendar. It’s amazing. And this is how you reach a very important segment of the population. As important as student reform groups are, there’s no way a college student can go in to a Rotary Club and convince them that the drug war is wrong. Get a police officer or judge with 20 years of experience telling them that war is a failure, and you’ve got their attention, big time.
Mike Smithson just let me in on LEAP’s upcoming plans, and they sound good, so I thought I’d share them with you.

  1. LEAP has begun its first ad campaign that will go for 7 months beginning in December, 2004. We are targeting talk radio show hosts and we’ll advertise in their trade magazine for 6 issues, send the radio show hosts a CD with snippets of our speakers, and then we’ll attend their annual conference in May, 2005.
  2. Retired police Captain Peter Christ tours the Quaker States eastern areas for 3 months, Jan. 24th-May 1st, 2005. In an area bordered by Scranton, Lancaster and Philadelphia, Christ will spark the debate across this area. See the website for details.
  3. Ohio Tour starring Judge Eleanor Schockett. Central and Southern Ohio will see Judge Schockett from Jan. 31st to Feb. 12th, 2005. Civic groups and colleges will get to hear the Miami-Dade County Judge explain what the criminal justice system is really like.
  4. The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre—2005. Judge Jim Gray from the Superior Court of Orange County California travels east to speak at Smith College in Northampton, MA, then Brown University in Providence, RI and then Wesleyan in Middletown, CT. Feb. 15th-17th, 2005.
  5. Judge Gray returns to take a bite out of the Big Apple. March 12th-17th, 2005. Judge Gray speaks at Columbia and John Jay College along with a great debate planned at one of the Unitarian churches. More presentations planned.

I’m particularly looking forward to the last item. I’ll be in New York that same week. Anybody want to join me? I’m a fan of Judge Jim Gray, as well as his book “Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs”.

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