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Can the Culture of Law Enforcement Change?

The Denver Sheriff's Department has been been justly slammed by an outside report of its performance, including multiple incidents involving the use of excessive force. Can it -- or any law enforcement agency -- change the culture that breeds such abuses?

The Denver Post reports the Sheriff's Department is trying. The largest recruitment class ever has begun training, and the recruits are being taught their role is one of a guardian, not a warrior. They are told that even when deadly force is legally authorized, it may not be the best option. It can also jeopardize their careers.

"We're in a monumental cultural change — not just us, but law enforcement nationwide. It's a culture of service. Our duty is to protect life. That's the message we want to convey...."

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The Making of a Narco-Terror Case

I've been writing about the DEA's most excellent African Adventures since 2009, particularly the sting cases where people from all over the world are extradited (or kidnapped and forcibly brought) to the U.S. for trial on drug offenses that had nothing or little to do with the U.S. In many, the DEA claimed a terror connection.

Ginger Thompson of Pro Publica (formerly an outstanding New York Times reporter) has been investigating these cases for a long time. She recently traveled to Mali and other far-off places to interview people directly involved. (Days before she left, I spoke to her on the phone about the cases for a very long time.) Two weeks ago she published her findings in an excellent article called The Narco Terror Trap.

The DEA warns that drugs are funding terror. An examination of cases raises questions about whether the agency is stopping threats or staging them.

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Mexico Supreme Court Opens Door to Legal Marijuana

In an 88 page opinion based on principles of human rights, Justice Arturo Zaldívara of the Mexican Supreme Court has paved the way for legal marijuana in Mexico.

The vote by the court’s criminal chamber declared that individuals should have the right to grow and distribute marijuana for their personal use. While the ruling does not strike down current drug laws, it lays the groundwork for a wave of legal actions that could ultimately rewrite them, proponents of legalization say.

Justice Zaldívar writes: "...[T]he state recognizes an individual’s autonomy to engage in recreational activities that do not harm others.

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The Changing Landscape of Heroin Use


[Lou Reed, Nico and the Velvet Underground, 1966.)

.

The New York Times: Parents of heroin addicts are urging a kindler, gentler drug war.

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1991 and the Racial Justice Act

Continuing from the last post on the battle between Joe Biden and Pres. H.W. Bush, with each claiming to be tougher on Crime: There was one voice of reason at the hearing: Sen. Howard Metzenbaum of Ohio. Here's what he said about why the Racial Justice Bill should not be dropped from the new bill that would implement 30 to 50 new death penalty offenses: (Cite is 137 Cong Rec S 8263

Mr. METZENBAUM. Mr. President, I rise to oppose any effort to remove the Racial Justice Act amendments from the death penalty provisions of the crime bill. If a crime bill with numerous death penalty provisions is to pass this body, it is critical that we deal with the obvious discriminatory nature of death penalty sentences.

The Racial Justice Act has nothing to do with whether you are for or against the death penalty. It is about racial discrimination.[more...]

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John Oliver Takes on Mandatory Minimum Sentences

Great segment by John Oliver on mandatory minimum sentences.

Ridiculously long sentences are not a great deterrent to crime. Prison sentences are a lot like p*nises: if they're used correctly, even a short one can do the trick."

(Asterisk used to avoid inviting spam.) As he points out:

Everyone has agreed that mandatory minimum rules were a mistake, and we cannot have a system where people are continuing to pay for that mistake."

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U.S. 2014 Wiretap Report Released


The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has released the 2014 Wiretap Report.

The number of federal and state wiretaps authorized in 2014 decreased 1 percent from 2013. The most serious offense under investigation in 89 percent of all applications for intercepts was illegal drugs.

Here's the data page showing totals by federal district. The full report is here.

DEA wiretaps have tripled in the last decade, and it appears the DEA is increasingly filing requests in state courts, bypassing Title III and federal courts.

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New UN Drug Report on Colombia: Coca Production is Up

The UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) released its latest report on coca production in Colombia today. Coca production is up 44%.

The increase is the biggest in almost a decade and takes coca production back to levels not seen since 2009. The findings come on the heels of a separate U.S. government survey showing production shot up 39 percent in 2014.

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DEA Wiretaps Triple Over Nine Years


DEA wiretaps have tripled over the last nine years. Of particular concern: It is increasingly bypassing the Title III requirements by applying for wiretaps in state courts.

USA Today reports (no link due to autoplay video)

The DEA conducted 11,681 electronic intercepts in the fiscal year that ended in September. Ten years earlier, the drug agency conducted 3,394.

The statistics are here.

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House Passes Bloated DOJ Budget

The House of Representatives yesterday approved the fiscal year 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill (H.R. 2578) on a vote of 242-183. The bill contains $51.4 billion in total discretionary funding,

Here is DOJ's submitted request. The bill as introduced is here.

There were 87 amendments to the bill. These are the ones that passed. [More...]

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Loretta Lynch Confirmed as Attorney General

Congress finally confirmed Loretta Lynch as Attorney General. Sally Yates, nominated by Obama in December for the Deputy AG slot was also confirmed. Lynch is expected to be sworn in on Monday.

Unfortunately, Lynch does not share Eric Holder's views on marijuana legalization.

She told the Senate that she did not support legalization and did not agree with Mr. Obama that marijuana may not be more dangerous than alcohol.

And she supports the Patriot Act, which once again is coming up for renewal.

It remains to be seen whether she withdraws any of Holder's positive changes to DOJ policy. [More...]

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DEA Chief Leonhart Resigns

Good news today. Michelle Leonhart is resigning from the DEA. (I'm sure she'd prefer the word retiring.)

Now if we could only retire the DEA.

In related news, a 19 month old baby who was maimed in his crib during a a botched drug raid will get $1 million. His nose and nipple were blown off.

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Marijuana Possession Now Legal in Alaska

In November, Alaska voters voted to legalize the personal use and possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The law went into effect today.

Alaska's new law, passed by voters in 2014, means people over age 21 can legally consume small amounts of pot, but individuals are not allowed to sell it or buy it. They are allowed to grow up to six plants and possess up to an ounce of weed. Smoking in public is not allowed.

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Mexico's Increased Heroin Production

The Associated Press has an interesting article on Mexico's recent surge of poppy growing and production of heroin.

The heroin trade is a losing prospect for everyone except the Mexican cartels, who have found a new way to make money in the face of falling cocaine consumption and marijuana legalization in the United States. Once smaller-scale producers of low-grade black tar, Mexican drug traffickers are now refining opium paste into high-grade white heroin and flooding the world's largest market for illegal drugs, using the distribution routes they built for marijuana and cocaine.

Heroin use in the U.S. has risen alongside the crackdown on pain pills. With the pills becoming so controlled and expensive, people have turned to heroin. The U.S. has fewer meth labs since the restrictions on pseudoephedrine were ushered in. But people didn't stop using meth, the production just shifted to Mexico, and the finished product is now shipped here in larger quantities to accommodate demand. [More...]

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The Fine Print in AG Holder's Forfeiture Directive

I was among those touting Attorney General Eric Holder's press release last week which appeared to be a sea change in federal civil asset forfeiture policy. Next time I'll wait to see the fine print before endorsing a prosecutorial "reform", rather than rely on a press release.

A signed copy of the actual directive to U.S. Attorneys is now available here. It has some major ambiguities and exceptions that weren't apparent in the press release. [More...]

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