WAR ON DRUGS IS A ‘CORRUPT DISASTER’ LAWMAN SAYS
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An Ozark E-Zine

Third in a series of investigative reports by Christine Louise Beems, editor emeritus gozarks.com, chronicling the process of interdiction, adjudication and dijudication as it exists in our drug-war-torn society today. [INDEX HERE]

According to Tony Ryan, 36-year veteran of the Denver Police, "The 'War on Drugs' is a disaster for law enforcement." Ryan addressed members and guests of Rotary at the Indian Hills Country Club in Fairfield Bay, Wednesday, July 11.

For example, freedom from search without just cause is guaranteed by the Constitution. Evidence obtained in violation of a citizen's Fourth Amendment rights is not admissible by the prosecution during a criminal trial. Evidence is excluded if an officer 'dishonestly or recklessly' prepares an affidavit forming the basis of the warrant. This 'exclusionary rule' is one way the courts enforce every citizen's guaranteed rights.

In the war on drugs, however, the corrupt and yet commonplace (end justifies the means) practice of fabricating grounds for search warrants has frequently erupted to headlines as it did last year after police gunned down an innocent 92-year-old woman during an illegal raid of her home in Atlanta, Georgia.

Ryan, retired from the Denver force as a lieutenant, now speaks out about such absurdities on behalf of "Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)." He explained why the justice system as a whole and police officers in particular are 'dishonored' by drug war tactics and propaganda, such as the infamous Atlanta incident.

According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in order to obtain a warrant the police swore that an informant had entered the home of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston and purchased cocaine. Factually, that was a lie. Yet the telling of 'little white lies' in the alleged service of justice is a common drug war tactic, as are the nefarious practices of planting evidence, boosting interdiction rates by means of entrapment and 'legally' blackmailing offenders with threats of stiffer penalties if the (alleged) perpetrator of the (alleged) crime refuses to turn in someone (anyone) else.

Calling the drug war "a total failure costing billions of dollars while making the problem worse and enriching drug dealers," Ryan said he finds it even more distressing what America's failed prohibitionist policy does to law enforcement itself. "Drug-enforcement activities are one of the highest sources of complaints against law enforcement," Ryan elaborated. The cloak-and-dagger practices, he said, not only needlessly claim innocent lives but also surrender countless careers to endemic corruption and undermine public trust in law enforcement.

"We do not advocate drug use," Ryan emphasized. "People get into a lot of trouble sometimes, using drugs. We have a problem with drugs of all kinds in this country. The misuse of prescribed drugs is a growing trend among teens. And we are out here to educate people about how the bad policy we have in this country makes everything worse. It doesn't stop the problem."

Ryan debunked oft-touted headlines claiming 'more drugs seized' and 'more record busts' saying that none of this changes or ends the real problem because "we have created a black-market situation and all we do when we arrest one drug dealer is create a job opening for another one."

In fact, Ryan asserted, interdiction actually makes it easier for dealers to 'get ahead' in the drug trade because "the next guy in line would have had to knock off the previous dealer to move up the ladder, but now he doesn't have to because we've created the opening for him."

Ryan reviewed the history of drug prohibition in America, looking back to the Harrison Act of 1914 which made heroine illegal. At that time, when Bayer Pharmaceutical sold heroine over the counter like aspirin, "a government study found that 1.3% of the nation's population was addicted to drugs." Now, after nearly a century of increasingly rigorous prohibition, persistent and escalating interdiction, billions of dollars, tens of thousands of incarcerations and millions of damaged lives, still today, Ryan said, 1.3% of the nation's population is addicted to drugs.

LEAP recommends that drug use be seen in the same context as the use of alcohol and tobacco: that the manufacture and sale of drugs should be regulated and taxed by the government; that drug addiction or abuse should be treated as a medical or social problem, not a crime.

"In Holland and also Switzerland, where they basically legalized marijuana in 1994 along with most other drugs, the number of 10th graders now who have tried marijuana is 28%. But in the U.S., under our current program, that number is 41%," Ryan explained.

"With legalization, there would be 1.9 million fewer people arrested each year," he continued. "Of those, now, close to 50% are arrested on marijuana charges and 88% of all marijuana arrests are for simple possession." This, Ryan elaborated, is ludicrous in light of the fact that, according to the AMA, tobacco kills 435,000 people each year, alcohol kills 85,000, all illicit drugs together kill roughly 18,000 and marijuana kills zero.

"Zero deaths and zero addiction from marijuana," said Ryan. Yet, he explained, because of mandatory drug sentencing a person can do more time in jail for the simple possession of drugs than for homicide.

Ryan also noted that with legalization and regulation there would be "quality controls on purity" which he said would eradicate deaths by accidental overdose. "Since 1994, since they changed their policy, Switzerland has not had one drug-overdose death," he asserted. "People who are addicted need help. We should help them. We should make them first not afraid that they're going to go to prison if they stand up and say 'I have a
problem'," Ryan said.

"The crime rates go down, no kids are caught in drug-war crossfire, the disease rates go down, the overdose rate is 'nothing' and people become productive citizens again." All because the 'profit motive' has been removed from black-market drugs. "And more important to me," Ryan asserted, "because I'm tired of reading about it in the papers, no one is killed by the police doing bad raids that are based on bad information where they have shoot-outs with a 92-year-old great grandmother and plant drugs to try and justify the whole thing. It happens all too often."

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the number of drug-related search warrants dropped from an average of 20 per month to an average of 3 per month after APD narcotics officers violently raided the home of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston, breaking down the door to her apartment, shooting and killing her during what later proved to be an illegal search. Atlanta defense attorneys have hailed the decline in warrant applications, saying it demonstrates that police were habitually cutting legal corners to interdict imaginary drug-war crimes before the Johnston killing.

"In the past, they (the police) basically had the ability to fabricate information and get a warrant," said Peter Ross, legal council for many who have fallen prey to illicit drug-war tactics, in an article by Drug War Chronicle. "Now that (the police) are being watched more closely (they) have to follow the law." In the Johnston case, two officers admitted lying to a judge in order to obtain the specious search warrant that resulted in her
death.

Ryan said that internationally, illicit trade in drugs generates five-hundred-billion-dollars-per-year which LEAP believes should be taxed like alcohol and tobacco. LEAP also recommends that this new revenue plus the money now being spent on interdiction, adjudication and incarceration be redirected to drug rehabilitation centers and social programs that bring hope such as guaranteed access to decent housing, good health care, excellent education, job training, employment and livable wages.

"What we're doing now is like trying to drive a car with bald tires on an icy road uphill," Ryan summarized. "We're getting nowhere. Education works. We need to change the laws." ~~ For more information on LEAP, visit www.leap.cc ~~
 

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