cj#380> Police veteran lambasts drug laws


Richard Moore

The article excerpted below has been posted in entirety as:


Date: Tue, 2 Jan 1996Sender: •••@••.••• (Joe Ferguson)
Subject: Feeding the Prisons

    Hi Richard, Happy New Year!

    I'm including a most interesting speech that appeared in the
American Reporter on 12/28/95 in case you didn't see it.  It kind
of connects with the prison labor theme, since it refers to one of
the most powerful mechanisms being used in the U.S. for steering
people into the prisons.

    - Joe


by Dr. Joseph McNamara
The Hoover Institution
Palo Alto, Calif.

                        by Dr. Joseph McNamara
                          Hoover Institution

        (Editor's Note:  Dr. Joseph McNamara is a veteran of the New York
City Police Department and is former Chief of Police of Kansas City and
San Jose; he is currently a Research Fellow at Stanford University's
Hoover Institution. He delivered this speech in October.)

        I think it's not an overstatement to say that both political
parties in America are playing dead when it comes to drug reform. Why is
that? Because it's too easy to be tougher on drugs than your opponent. And
we have to face the political reality of that.
        How do we change that?
        Well, one thought that we had was, suppose we could get the law
enforcement community to say to the politicians, as we finally got them to
say on the issue of gun control, look, help us, we need help. How, what
would we do? Would that be cover?
        Out of that came the Hoover Law Enforcement Summit, which was held
last May 9th and 10th. We invited the top leaders in American law
enforcement -- and indeed our steering committee was composed of some of
the most well known people in law enforcement -- and we had more than 50
agencies participate. We had a wonderful two day conference. Ethan
[Nadelmann] started it with an overview of where we were in drug policy in
the United States, and what's happening internationally. We had
criminologists Jerry Skolnick from Berkeley, and Al Blumstein from
Carnegie Mellon University.
        Blumstein has done very important work, detailing the enormous
increase in juvenile violence, the doubling of the homicide rate by
firearms among teenagers, and related that directly to drug commerce and
the easy availability of guns in inner cities. He has characterized the
Drug War as an assault upon the African American community, where police
tactics are used routinely that would not be tolerated in a white middle
class neighborhood for a week. And I was a police chief for 18 years in
two of America's largest cities. Al Blumstein is right. We could never use
the tactics that are used routinely. And that's why DPF (Drug Policy
Foundation) deserves such enormous credit for making possible the
Sentencing Project report, which I think is a bombshell that we all have
to pick up and run with.
        We had two federal judges, DPF board member [U.S. District Judge]
Bob Sweet, and Vaughn Walker, from the San Francisco Federal Circuit, talk
about the destruction that these drug cases and mandatory sentencing are
causing in the court system. George Shultz, former Secretary of State,
spoke and gave very eloquent evidence of his speaking out years ago,
denouncing the Drug War as wrongheaded and not making sense economically.
He introduced our keynote speaker, [Baltimore Mayor] Kurt Schmoke. And
Kurt Schmoke got a standing ovation from this audience of police chiefs.

        The other reason is there's something very, very wrong going on in
American policing. I'm going to just close by taking one minute to say
that I think as sad as what we're seeing in American policing is, that it
does hold some hope for reform for us. We have experienced a wave of
police scandals over the past five to 10 years that are quite different
than anything we've seen historically. One reason that this is not so
apparent is the very nature of American law enforcement is decentralized,
because each city has its own law enforcement agency. The federal
government, the DEA and the FBI, get a lot of publicity, but there are
only a few thousand of them, believe it or not. And many of you are saying
"Thank God," probably, at the moment. [Laughter.]
        But we have from four to five hundred thousand local law
enforcement, state and local law enforcement officials. Those are the guys
filling the prisons that Mr. Bushnell mentioned. And 70 percent of their
arrests are for possession of drugs. Now that doesn't mean 30 percent are
big deal distributors. The Drug War's a dirty war, and it's a racist war.
The dealers, the people arrested for sale are like Joycelyn Elders' son.
They're not bigshots. They're often people who got caught in the wrong
place, and some agent of law enforcement is wired to get them, bid them up
to higher and higher levels. And then they're ending up doing 10 and 15
years of a mandatory sentence.
        The Drug War cannot stand the light of day. And that's my hope,
that we can at least get some objective study of it. It will collapse as
quickly as the Vietnam War, as soon as people find out what's really going
on. And I think we can get that study, if we can mobilize the police, as
we did in the first Hoover conference. We're aiming at another Hoover
        I want to take a moment to talk about what you are sort of subtly
aware of, but because it's one story at a time, and because it's spread so
far geographically, we're unaware of the massive police scandals that have
been going on for a decade. In Boston, two white detectives frame an
African-American suspect for murdering a white woman, after her husband
complained that they were accosted and robbed in an intersection. It turns
out the husband did the murder, but it's only exposed after his suicide.
In New York, the police, once again, are exposed, in uniform, of
conducting armed robberies, of beating people, of framing drug dealers, of
selling drugs to the community. Similar cases in Philadelphia, Denver,
Atlanta. In New Orleans, a new shock, a new level -- a police officer
murders her partner and store owners, and then responds in uniform on
patrol to the crime scene. She's convicted now. Her boyfriend was a drug
dealer, by the way.


        (This speech was delivered by Dr. McNamara at the 9th International
Conference on Drug Policy Reform, Santa Monica, Calif.)


 Posted by Richard K. Moore (•••@••.•••) Wexford, Ireland
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