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Stamper says in LEAP's promotional video, "Even though I knew that the drug war was harmful financially and psychically and spiritually . . . I should have been saying much more of that, much more strenuously."
One thing LEAP's members can attest to that other drug war critics can't is the drug war's corrupting influence on police officers.
Tony Ryan, one of LEAP's newest member and a well-decorated, 36-year Denver police officer recently wrote in an op-ed, "the huge lure of money is always there, either through bribes by drug dealers, or during busts where piles of money are lying around. Corruption of law enforcement was at its highest during alcohol prohibition and we see it now with drug prohibition."
Any Lexis or Google News search will confirm Ryan's warning about corruption a dozen times over. That's not an indictment of police officers. Rather, it's an indictment of policy that puts police officers in situations where temptation and corruption come begging. But it's still a difficult argument for someone without law enforcement experience to make. Coming from a retired cop – in fact from dozens of them affiliated with LEAP – it becomes impossible for drug war proponents to ignore.
LEAP's message is powerful. I've now heard or seen four of its speakers' presentations. They use tales from the front lines to illustrate their broader points on public policy. Their delivery is authentic and gently persuasive, not didactic. They come from all political stripes, from hippy-ish liberals to live-and-let-live libertarians to law-and-order conservatives, the latter having come to the realization that the drug war consists of bad laws that cause much disorder.
For several years now, LEAP has been looking for a debate with the country's top drug policymakers – anyone from DEA Administrator Karen Tandy to Drug Czar John Walters to powerful prohibition politicians like Indiana Rep. Mark Souder.
So far, they've had little luck. That's too bad. If the drug war is still as important and necessary as our leaders in government say it is, it's champions should be able to defend it--especially against the law enforcement officers they've asked to fight it.