"The Balls of a Burglar"

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The Denver Westword profiles Telluride lawman Bill Masters, a vocal critic of the War on Drugs and the only sheriff in the country who's a member of the Libertarian Party.

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  1. Can we get him to run for president?

  2. I recall Radley Balko’s written a few times about DARE. Offhand:

    http://www.theagitator.com/archives/000647.php
    http://www.theagitator.com/archives/010781.php

    Hell, I’m sure Jacob Sullum has enough info to write a book…

  3. That was a great article. I have what may very well be a stupid question (it wouldn’t be the first I’ve asked) about a quote in it: “I talk to police officers all over the nation,” he notes. “Most of them say, ‘I can’t say this publicly, but you’re right.'”

    Do they feel like they can’t say this publicly because their direct superiors will come down on them since WOD is so profitable for police departments?
    Is it because they don’t want to get criticized by their congressman, the current drug czar, etc.? Because I would think the public would be a lot more willing to listen to a cop who might potentially know what he’s talking about than some hand-shaking, baby-kissing jerk-off from DC.
    Is it because people in their towns will feel like their police won’t do a conscientious job of enforcing drug laws, and that either 1) they won’t feel safe, or 2) they can get away with more drug-related crime?

    Only the first one makes sense to me, and seems like a pretty big problem to overcome without changing incentives like forfeiture laws and/or funding police better in general. But I could be missing something very obvious.

  4. Most government employees are banned from speaking on political matters as a government employee, or using public property politically. So a cop can join an anti-drug war group, and oppose drug laws, but if he says “As a cop, I oppose drug laws”, or makes these statements in uniform(or, in practice, gets too high profile and is identified on TV as “Joe Blow, Cop and anti-drug activist” even if he was within the rules speaking where he spoke.), he can be fired. But if he speaks in favor of drug laws, he’s just doing his job – encouraging “compliance with the law”.

    Note these are, on the whole, good rules, if underenforced – we don’t want housing authority workers lobbying the legislature for more public housing, and such – but they do skew participation, especially on issues like this where an individual officer may be bucking his superiors, whether that is his captain or the mayor.

  5. Thanks, rvman, that is indeed a fairly straightforward explanation that I hadn’t thought of. I can see some value in a rule like that, but it’s got to prevent a lot of people with highly relevant experience from sharing (especially if they’re going against the institutional position, as you point out).

  6. There is an exception, rvman. Government employees can, and should, talk about the political issues surrounding their jobs when they’re asked to by the elected and appointed officeholders they work for.

    And frankly, they should probably be asked more, for the reasons J mentions. Cops used to say things like that, quietly and in confidence, to my defense attorney father all the time.

  7. Joking aside, I would NOT fuck with a Libertarian cop.

  8. Two Denver references in two days? Colorado is back on the map!

  9. Great article.

    70,000,000,000 per year for just the justice department, divided by 280,000,000 is $250 per year for every man, woman and child in the US. Is you say there are 150,000,000 taxpayers, that’s over $460 per year from each of us.

    I don’t know about you folks but I’d rather they pissed that money away on a moon base or a missle defense shield than on busting druggies.

  10. Great article. Has the GAO or any other guv’ment agency done a cost/benefit analysis of D.A.R.E.?

  11. I’m in a hurry, so haven’t read the referenced article yet, but already know Masters of course on accounta his being on our Advisory Board.

    http://leap.cc/tbay WHO WE ARE

    Oh, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition was organized specifically to give a voice to cops, judges and others in the criminal justice system who believe some or all of our current drug war policies are whack.

    I’ll return later to address the question which “J” posed.

  12. Joe,

    Well, if a Libertarian cop is after you, the chances are better that it’s for something that actually should be illegal.

  13. joe,

    Please excuse my mistake with your name. I wasn’t
    being very (case) sensitive.

  14. “J” wrote: Do they feel like they can’t say this (criticizing the War on Drugs) publicly because their direct superiors will come down on them since WOD is so profitable for police departments?
    Is it because they don’t want to get criticized by their congressman, the current drug czar, etc.? Because I would think the public would be a lot more willing to listen to a cop who might potentially know what he’s talking about than some hand-shaking, baby-kissing jerk-off from DC.
    Is it because people in their towns will feel like their police won’t do a conscientious job of enforcing drug laws, and that either 1) they won’t feel safe, or 2) they can get away with more drug-related crime?

    Only the first one makes sense to me, and seems like a pretty big problem to overcome without changing incentives like forfeiture laws and/or funding police better in general. But I could be missing something very obvious.

    SinC: You are pretty much on the right track with your surmisings.

    Yes indeed, likely the biggest reasons for cops having to ‘stay in the closet’ with regard to criticizing Prohibition is that forfeiture laws passed over the past 15 years have turned drug law enforcement into the only aspect of law enforcement that is commission-based compensation.

    Additionally, much of major law enforcement over the past 25 years has taken on a very militarized aspect. And along with that comes an even stronger ‘Blue Wall of Silence’. Only now it’s not just about staying silent in the face of possible wrongdoing by fellow officers, but also remaining silent in the face of misguided and ineffective policies.

    Questions and comments about LEAP are always welcome via the website or directly to me at res0gisj@verizon.net

    Oh, being a non-profit org, we rely on individuals from communities to help us book speaking engagements. We can help you get a LEAP speaker for your civic club, school group (college or high school), church group etc.

    Please check us out and if so inclined, lend your support.

    Steve (Heath)

  15. “Most government employees are banned from speaking on political matters as a government employee, or using public property politically.”
    –rvman

    Whenever there’s a millage increase up for a vote, the sign or marquee at every publick skool in Washingon County has “Vote Yes” on it. And every road construction project I ever see has a sign reading “Your capital improvement revenue at work.” As far as I’m concerned, they shouldn’t be able to spend even a single penny of taxpayer money to lobby for their agendas.

  16. Isn’t it rather a big oversight to write a long article like that and not mention Joseph McNamara? (Or was he in there and did I miss it?)

  17. It’s good to be in Colorado!

    Now if only we could keep the Federal government from forcing local communities to enforce other-peoples-standards…

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