Now Playing at Reason.tv: Former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper on LEAP, Hempfest, and the drug war

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Norm Stamper is a cop who saw it all during his 34 years on active duty. As police of Seattle from 1994 through 2000, he was in charge during violent World Trade Organization protests in the Emerald City.

Stamper, who holds a Ph.D. in leadership and human behavior from United States International University, has emerged as one of the most thoughtful and outspoken critics of the war on drugs, which he believes causes untold misery, undermines effective law enforcement, and doesn't begin to pass any sort of cost-benefit analysis. As important, the libertarian Stamper believes that the drug war-and other wars on the behaviors on consenting adults-does great violence to the idea that we own our bodies.

Stamper is the author of the Breaking Rank: A Top Cop's Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing (2005) and now works with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a nonprofit created by former cops to "reduce the multitude of unintended harmful consequences resulting from fighting the war on drugs and to lessen the incidence of death, disease, crime, and addiction by ultimately ending drug prohibition."

Click on the image below to watch a 10-minute conversation with Stamper.

Go here to listen an audio podcast of the interview.

And go here to embed this video on your site, to download HD and iPod-friendly versions, and to get more articles and links about Stamper, LEAP, Hempfest, and drug policy.

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  1. So another LEO makes his living perpetuating misery on the innocent and then suddenly once his pension is secure grows a brain and/or pair of balls.

  2. As police of Seattle from 1994 through 2000, he was in charge during violent World Trade Organization protests in the Emerald City.

    Wow, it was just him? I’ll bet he has seen it all. 🙂

  3. Joe’s law. That is all.

  4. As an avid watcher of Worlds Wildest Police Videos and a bartender who has worked graveyard shifts i too have seen it all. Now someone set me up with a non-profit group and I’ll tell it all. For a price.

  5. Hey! Another “Former hoopty-doo” criticizes the war on drugs. Can we get a “Current Hoopty-doo” criticizes war on drugs– presses legislature for reforms. Word to ktc2

    Anyhoo, glad to see Stamper speaking out agin this here WoD.

    However, Mr. Stamper wasn’t without his problems. I never thought I’d say it, but Kerlikowske turned out to be worse. Too bad he couldn’t speak his mind when he was Chief.

  6. Most cops that I’ve met have been good people who wanted to make the world a better place. They didn’t ask for drug laws, or thought police laws, but when you sign up to be a cop, you have to enforce all laws.

    That they’re getting together and opposing the idiotic drug war is excellent. If they’ll also oppose speech code laws, we’ll really be rockin’.

  7. Antiglobalist, I’ve got no respect for them until they can get their balls in gear to speak out while they’re in the service. There is one single active-duty cop in LEAP.

  8. Most cops that I’ve met have been good people who wanted to make the world a better place.

    Good intentions. Road to hell. You know the drill.

  9. A Phd from United States International University? Really?

    He admits that? Did he get it overnighted via FedEx or did they just email it to him once the check cleared.

  10. Ditto all the above.

    USIU???

  11. Cut him some slack…who’s got time for school when you’re single-handedly waging the Battle in Seattle?

  12. Antiglobalist,

    So they’re basically just obeying orders?

    Hmm…where have I heard that before?

  13. As far as I know, cops don’t get to pick and choose which laws they must enforce.

  14. As far as I know, cops don’t get to pick and choose which laws they must enforce.

    As far as I know (from personal, white, middle class, feigning respect experience), they most certainly do.

  15. And I’ll take any help fron former LEOs I can get fighting this immoral, counterproductive policy known as the War on Drugs Liberty.

  16. Hey Ed,

    Perhaps someone should tell that to our top cop?

    “Not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime,” Mukasey explained yesterday in remarks to the American Bar Association in New York.

    But regardless of your opinion on selective enforcement nobody is FORCING them to be cops.

  17. As far as I know, cops don’t get to pick and choose which laws they must enforce.

    But, FWIW, here in Seattle voters did elect to make marijuana related offenses the lowest LEO priority.

    We had one of the LEAP guys come speak at a class I took on the WoD at uni. Their policy prescriptions were a little wonky, but better than nothing, I guess.

    Understandably, Mr. LEAP took a pretty strong “think of teh children” stance, and felt the need to keep harping on how dangerous drug users can be (while asserting that the WoD was MORE harmful, of course).

    I realize that making this palatable to the average joe is important, it was still a little irksome to get the legalization talk with a side of moralizing.

  18. As far as I know cops don’t get to pick and choose which laws they must enforce.

    As far as I know, from being a prosecutor, they and prosecutors do. You see, there is way more criminal and traffic law than they could possibly enforce. LEO’s don’t have enough resources to enforce ALL the laws. So they get to pick and choose. They HAVE to choose.

    For example, they could sit at a intersection and bust every single person who doesn’t come to a complete stop at a stop sign. They could investigate every burglary like it is a CSI episode.

    I remember this one fuckwad cop who was busting people for dumping their trash into the dumpsters of say Wal-Mart or some other large chain with huge dumpsters. I didn’t prosecute because 1) I wasn’t going to try to fucking figure out how much services (the dumpster) was being stolen (as determined, in my opinion, by the volume of trash). 2) Because I would rather these, mostly poor, people making sure there trash got to the landfill rather than on the side of the road.

    But since drug possession is a crime with nice little fantasies like constructive possession and devoid of mens rea, many spineless or lazy or mean pigs pick the low hanging fruit like drug crimes. That way, neither they or attorney have to think that much like they would have to do proving a burglary case.

  19. I looked at the gun control chapter of his book. Fuck him.

  20. P.S. Joe’s Law can strike no matter how many times you hit the preview button.

  21. Hey, thanks for the help on the Drug War and all that chief, but what about the 2nd Amendment?

    Below is the grand finale wrap on his website. Notice the slide from women and children being brutalized in the home, leading directly to guns and “…eradicating these ills.”: (Am I paranoid about “gun control” yer fucking right I am! – and just because I’m paranoid don’t mean nobody’s after me – famous quote by someone.)

    Violence in the home denies basic security and emotional wellbeing for millions of people, most of them women, many of them children. Being brutalized, terrorized, forced to live in fear of a “loved one” is an abject form of injustice.

    Guns in the hands of people who should never touch a firearm ensures unsafe homes, schools and campuses across the land, and the continuing threat of the slaughter of America’s children.

    Many organizations are dedicated to eradicating these ills. Here are just a few I work with and/or support:

    American Civil Liberties Union, http://www.aclu.org
    Amnesty International, http://www.amnestyusa.org
    Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, http://www.handguncontrol.org
    Death Penalty Focus, http://www.deathpenalty.org
    Drug Policy Alliance, http://www.drugpolicy.org
    Family Violence Prevention Fund, http://www.endabuse.org
    Human Rights Campaign, http://www.hrc.org
    Innocence Project, http://www.innocenceproject.org
    Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, http://www.leap.cc
    NORML, http://www.norml.org

  22. “”””As far as I know, cops don’t get to pick and choose which laws they must enforce.”””

    Not only do they get to choose which ones they want to enforce, they pretty much get to choose which ones they want to obey too.

  23. But remember, Stamper must officially be regarded as an unbalanced loony who can’t be taken seriously by LEAs who support the WoD. A cop with the wrong stance on an issue is no better than a “civilian.”

  24. You’re confusing discretion with duty. A cop has discretion. He needn’t cite every jaywalker he sees. But he hasn’t the prerogative to selectively enforce laws he agrees with and ignore crimes and criminals he may be sympathetic to. He may do so anyway, but I’m fairly certain he would be breaking his oath if he did. Better?

  25. Just thought I’d add that Stamper was Wimpy McWimperson. If a gang member was beating you over the head with a skateboard, he’s try to get the guy to discuss his Family of Origin issues.

  26. Are they pointing out that leftism is a fashion, as Tom Wolfe says?

    Good for them, then.

  27. I looked at the gun control chapter of his book. Fuck him.

    On that issue, sure. On the drug war though, he’s right. I see no reason not to work with someone on the issues where we’re in agreement, even though we might fight tooth and nail on a different issue.

    -jcr

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