Monday, December 05, 2005

Former Seattle Police Chief says "Legalize it, All of it"

Norm Stamper, former police chief of Seattle, penned an op-ed in today's Seattle Times calling for full legalization. His rationale is humanistic, practical and non-partisan. Some block quotes appear below, along with a link to the editorial itself.

"As a cop, I bore witness to the multiple lunacies of the "war on drugs." Lasting far longer than any other of our national conflicts, the drug war has been prosecuted with equal vigor by Republican and Democratic administrations, with one president after another -- Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush -- delivering sanctimonious sermons, squandering vast sums of taxpayer money and cheerleading law enforcers from the safety of the sidelines.

It's not a stretch to conclude that our Draconian approach to drug use is the most injurious domestic policy since slavery. Want to cut back on prison overcrowding and save a bundle on the construction of new facilities? Open the doors, let the nonviolent drug offenders go. The huge increases in federal and state prison populations during the 1980s and '90s (from 139 per 100,000 residents in 1980 to 482 per 100,000 in 2003) were mainly for drug convictions. In 1980, 580,900 Americans were arrested on drug charges. By 2003, that figure had ballooned to 1,678,200. We're making more arrests for drug offenses than for murder, manslaughter, forcible rape and aggravated assault combined. Feel safer?

I've witnessed the devastating effects of open-air drug markets in residential neighborhoods: children recruited as runners, mules and lookouts; drug dealers and innocent citizens shot dead in firefights between rival traffickers bent on protecting or expanding their markets; dedicated narcotics officers tortured and killed in the line of duty; prisons filled with nonviolent drug offenders; and drug-related foreign policies that foster political instability, wreak health and environmental disasters, and make life even tougher for indigenous subsistence farmers in places such as Latin America and Afghanistan. All because we like our drugs -- and can't have them without breaking the law.

As an illicit commodity, drugs cost and generate extravagant sums of (laundered, untaxed) money, a powerful magnet for character-challenged police officers.

Although small in numbers of offenders, there isn't a major police force -- the Los Angeles Police Department included -- that has escaped the problem: cops, sworn to uphold the law, seizing and converting drugs to their own use, planting dope on suspects, robbing and extorting pushers, taking up dealing themselves, intimidating or murdering witnesses."

The Seattle Times: Opinion: Legalize drugs — all of them

You can send a letter to the editor at opinion@seattletimes.com. (Letters must include your full name (no initials), home address and daytime and evening telephone numbers for verification.)

1 comment:

BruceH said...

This is a great editorial and I'm very glad that the Seattle Times is carrying it. I would like to see it in more papers -- especially nationally significant papers such as the NYT.

I'd like to point out, however, that the editorial is not new. The LA Times carried it back in october.