Speaking to Raw Story recently, an active duty police officer who asked not to be named threw down the gauntlet over the part of his job he hates most: the drug war.
“I did not get in law enforcement to destroy a person’s future because that person had marijuana or a pill in their pocket,” the officer explained. “Why would you want to destroy that person’s future and cause them great harm because of that? It’s not worth it.”
Like many Americans, the reality of the drug war was was nothing like what he’d been taught to believe in his youth. But statistics like a citizen being arrested for drugs every 19 seconds in 2010, and 1.6 million people incarcerated over drugs in 2009, were nothing compared to what he actually experienced in the front lines of the drug war on America’s users.
But for those officers who put their lives on the line every day to protect the public from dangerous, violent criminals, the drug war isn’t always just another part of the job. For this officer in particular, it’s much more than that: “The war on drugs is a war on people,” he claimed.
“I just didn’t see problems from illegal drug users that I’d been led to believe,” the officer explained. “Most of the calls that we get on drug use, as police, are alcohol related. Alcohol is a serious drug that can be abused, but I just didn’t see the calls on other drugs like I had been led to believe. I didn’t see these drug-crazed people out there doing crazy things… Even growing up before entering law enforcement, I was always led to believe that the drug war was meant to stop all these people from doing crazy things. But on the street, that’s not what you see. That’s a lie.”
In his view, the officer said that the American public would be much better off if the government would “regulate drugs and keep the control out of the hands of the black market criminals.”
“The cartels have been running a serious drug operation in America for decades, and I don’t think most Americans are really aware of it,” he said. “The money comes from the prohibition of drugs. These criminals are making their money because of the prohibition. If you legalize and regulate it, their profits go to zero.”
For more than two decades in law enforcement, he said that he’s carried an immense guilt: his first drug arrest.
“I was in training, on ‘the other side of the tracks,’ for lack of better words, and we pulled a vehicle over,” he explained. “The guy, I think he had a defective taillight or something. He was sober, polite, respectful, no problems, and my training officer said, ‘Oh yeah, he’s gonna have drugs.’ So, I asked if we could search his vehicle and he gave me permission. Within no time, I found a small amount of (hard) drugs, so he was facing a serious charge. The whole time I was thinking, ‘This is not right. This guy’s keeping to himself, not hurting nobody, he’s a peaceful person.’ I instinctively knew this was wrong. I changed my perspective immediately. This was not the war on drugs that I thought it would be.”
Carrying this guilt for his participation in such a system, he got away from making narcotics arrests and received a transfer to another division. There he worked for years, until one day in 2006. Acting on a whim, he ran a Google search for the peculiar terms, “cops against the drug war,” and rather abruptly found a new calling: an activist group called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). He’s followed their work ever since, and in 2012, the officer finally decided that he too must raise his voice against the drug war.
Today, he’s acquired a unique extra-curricular activity: an anonymous blog served up by LEAP, examining the innards of the drug war from a perspective rarely put on public display. If his superiors knew, he explained, “I would probably be terminated.”
And, he claims, it’s not just him that’s come to some stark, personal conclusions on the drug war: fellow officers are coming around as well — especially those who’ve been doing it for a while.
“I remember a case just here recently when an officer was trying to find marijuana on one guy, and another officer started looking around in this area where there’s actual crime, and he was kind of making fun of him for wasting time,” he said. “There’s plenty of officers that do want to get away from the petty, small drug arrests that distract them from fighting real crime, which is what a lot of them get into law enforcement for individually.”
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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