The Straight Dope on Crooked Cops


Do we really need another book that makes all the familiar arguments against drug prohibition? When it's by a former police chief, we probably do. Last month Norm Stamper, who ran the Seattle Police Department from 1994 to 2000, published Breaking Rank: A Top Cop's Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing (only part of which is about the war on drugs). Alternet has a drug-related excerpt.

"I say it's time to withdraw the troops in the war on drugs," writes Stamper. He lists various costs of prohibition, including

the reputation of individual police officers, individual departments, and the entire system of American law enforcement. If you aspire to be a "crooked" cop, drugs are clearly the way to go. The availability, street value, and illegality of drugs form a sweet temptation to character-challenged cops, many of whom wind up shaking down street dealers, converting drugs for their own use, or selling them.

Almost all of the major police corruption scandals of the last several decades have had their roots in drug enforcement. We've seen robbery, extortion, drug dealing, drug stealing, drug use, false arrests, perjury, throw-down guns, and murder. And these are the good guys?

In a similar vein, former San Jose Police Chief Joe McNamara has been working on a book titled Gangster Cops: The Hidden Cost of America's War on Drugs. Former law enforcement officials like Stamper and McNamara are crucial for bringing credibility to the antiprohibitionist cause, especially on the topics of corruption, black market violence, and diverted police resources. The group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) organizes and publicizes such dissenters.

[Thanks to the Drug Policy Alliance's Tony Newman for the Alternet link.]