Misplaced Priorities in the War on Drugs

Radley Balko has a new feature article at Huffington Post on law enforcment's misplaced priorities in the War on Drugs.

"The availability of huge federal anti-drug grants incentivizes departments to pay for SWAT team armor and weapons, and leads our police officers to abandon real crime victims in our communities in favor of ratcheting up their drug arrest stats," said former Los Angeles Deputy Chief of Police Stephen Downing. Downing is now a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an advocacy group of cops and prosecutors who are calling for an end to the drug war.

"When our cops are focused on executing large-scale, constitutionally questionable raids at the slightest hint that a small-time pot dealer is at work, real police work preventing and investigating crimes like robberies and rapes falls by the wayside," Downing said.


In New York, enforcement against violent crimes has taken a back seat to drugs. This Village Voice article explains.

Also to blame: asset forfeiture laws allowing police to share in the proceeds of their seizures.

The most perverse policy may be asset forfeiture. Under civil asset forfeiture, police can seize property from people merely suspected of drug crimes. So long as police can show even the slightest link of drug activity to a car, some cash, or even a home, they can seize it. In the majority of cases, most or all of the seized cash goes back to the police department. In some cases, the department has taken possession of cars as well, but generally non-cash property is auctioned off, with the proceeds then going back to the department.

This reminds me of a joke that was going around a year or so ago.

The Arrogance of Authority,, aka the Power of the Badge

A DEA officer stopped at a ranch in Texas , and talked with an old rancher. He told the rancher, "I need to inspect your ranch for illegally grown drugs."

The rancher said, "Okay , but don't go in that field over there.....", as he pointed out the location.

The DEA officer verbally exploded saying, " Mister, I have the authority of the Federal Government with me !" Reaching into his rear pants pocket, the arrogant officer removed his badge and proudly displayed it to the rancher.

"See this f*****g badge?! This badge means I am allowed to go wherever I wish.... On any land !! No questions asked or answers given!! Have I made myself clear......do you understand ?!!" The rancher nodded politely, apologized, and went about his chores.

A short time later, the old rancher heard loud screams, looked up, and saw the DEA officer running for his life, being chased by the rancher's big Santa Gertrudis bull....

With every step the bull was gaining ground on the officer, and it seemed likely that he'd sure enough get gored before he reached safety. The officer was clearly terrified.

The rancher threw down his tools, ran to the fence and yelled at the top of his lungs.....

"Your badge, show him your f*****g BADGE.... !"

And as if we're not wasting enough domestic resources on the War on Drugs, check out the contract solicitations this month from the Defense Department's DoD Counter Narco-Terrorism Program Office (CNTPO). Adam Clark Estes at the Atlantic Wire and Spencer Ackerman at Wired report the program is "a one-stop shop for private security contractors around the world, soliciting deals worth over $3 billion."

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  • Display: Sort:
    It is a good idea to beef up Police Capabilities. (3.50 / 2) (#1)
    by Gerald USN Ret on Fri Nov 25, 2011 at 09:39:58 PM EST
    You might not have been paying attention but the Mexican Drug Cartels are moving more and more into the USA.

    Those police departments especially the small ones need help, and if they look prepared it may give the Mexican Drug Cartels pause.

    that is not correct (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Nov 25, 2011 at 10:38:08 PM EST
    that violence from Mexico cartels is coming to the US. Don't spread propaganda here.

    Even the mayors of the border cities don't buy it and there's no stats to back up your claim.

    In fact, the statistics show the opposite:

    U.S. border cities are statistically safer on average than other places in their respective states, according to the analysis, which drew upon data from more than 1,600 local law enforcement agencies, federal crime statistics and interviews in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

    ....violence has been exaggerated to promote political agendas like "stalling efforts to pass a national immigration reform law" and "fueling stringent anti-immigration laws in Arizona and elsewhere," USA Today reported.

    What do you expect a mayor to say? (none / 0) (#6)
    by Gerald USN Ret on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 05:33:14 AM EST
    A mayor always paints his town as a great place to live, to do business in.  They also like to say it will be a great place to have a professional ball team in.

    There is propaganda coming from every direction as usual.  Everyone points at the other person. (Hey it is like politics, isn't it?  Surprise. Surprise!)


    have you considered (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by cpinva on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 12:21:05 PM EST
    changing your name to "missed the point" gerald?

    i'll repeat it, s l o w l y:

    the "war on drugs" has resulted in misplaced priorities, leaving scant resources available, in many areas, to handle non-drug related criminal activity. this would be the kind of criminal activity that affects the majority of the population.

    further, were it not for the prohibition on drugs (much like that predictably unsuccessful one on alcohol), these cartels would never have had the incentive to exist in the first place, there'd have been no money in it. it's a vicious circle.

    jeralyn, i doubt jim made up the bit about the joke referring to an EPA official, he's never struck me as having that much imagination.


    Also see (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Nov 25, 2011 at 10:51:59 PM EST
    here. As Janet Napolitano said in March,

    `security on the southern U.S. border is better now than it ever has been' and that `violence from neighboring Mexico hasn't spilled over in any serious way,'" Thompson said.

     ....Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics that show violence along the U.S. southwest border with Mexico has dropped 14 percent in the last three years.

    What happened... (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by Romberry on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 01:34:41 AM EST
    ...to the violence associated with alcohol prohibition once the 18th amendment was repealed? What do you think would happen to the violence associated with the drug war if the drug was was ended and the substances which people are going to buy anyway were legalized, distributed through the same sorts of methods as liquor and taxed?

    You're putting the cart before the horse. Worse, the cart you're putting up front here isn't even really a cart, it's a myth of a cart.

    Prohibition doesn't work.


    And it sure costs us loads and loads (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 06:33:15 AM EST
    in blood and treasure.

    We can all do what I do (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 06:58:46 AM EST
    Call our congress people and demand we rationalize our drug laws.  

    And I don't do any drugs outside a Stoly or Cabernet every now and then.

    It's like single payer healthcare. Everybody knows what the solution is but too many people are being paid to fight it.


    don't do this again jim: (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by cpinva on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 12:24:55 PM EST
    It's like single payer healthcare. Everybody knows what the solution is but too many people are being paid to fight it.

    writing something i agree with will force me to smack you. george will does that once every 20 years or so, he's just lucky i'm too damn lazy to drive to DC!


    Great minds, and all that... (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by NYShooter on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 07:57:55 PM EST
    I was going to wrote somnething similar, but you saved me the humility.

    Thanks, and I'll see you in another decade, or so, when the three of agree on another point.


    cpinva and ny shooter (none / 0) (#19)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 10:47:18 PM EST
    I probably have commented a dozen times over my belief that what we need is a single payer system based on Medicare as a model.

    I am shocked, yes shocked that you didn't know that.

    Perhaps we should all back up and say that we all don't disagree on everything just because we disagree on some things.

    And watch the smacking, cp. For a 73 year old I am in very good shape.



    Again, we agree (none / 0) (#24)
    by NYShooter on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 03:21:47 AM EST
    when you said, "For a 73 year old I am in very good shape.


    I have often thought how very childlike you appear in some of your comments.

    Now let's see, was that a compliment, or a dig? Hmmm...

    Here's one for you, Jim :)


    It is a snark (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 09:37:20 AM EST
    But really no surprise.

    You know, the thing that I always find confusing about many on the Left and on the Right is that you/they can't accept someone disagreeing with you/they, even though they agree with you/they on some other important issues.

    I think it is this demand for purity that keeps the country bumping along the middle. Sometimes center left, sometimes center right.

    And that aint bad! Holds down riots and confrontations that we see in other countries from time to time.

    So snark away, we each have our opinions of the other and I bet our opinions match!



    It isn't that we don't know that (none / 0) (#26)
    by sj on Mon Nov 28, 2011 at 01:57:35 AM EST
    We do.  
    I am shocked, yes shocked that you didn't know that.
    What shocks us is that you didn't add some superfluous ... something... that makes it difficult to focus on the points of agreement.

    It's nice.  A bit disconcerting, to be sure, but nice to just for once completely agree with you :)


    The joke was very funny. (3.00 / 2) (#3)
    by Mr Natural on Fri Nov 25, 2011 at 10:46:37 PM EST

    The joke was funny (none / 0) (#8)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 06:50:43 AM EST
    and it was also funny the first time I read it only the government dude was from the EPA.

    These anti-government jokes remind of stories about humor in the Soviet Union.


    Jim, where did you see (none / 0) (#10)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 11:48:38 AM EST
    the joke with the agent being from the EPA? Google doesn't seem to show it. While there are dozens of links to it from all over the world since 2009, including France, Ireland, and Britain, and on blogs that have nothing to do with politics, all refer to the DEA agent. Did you make that up?

    he,s trying to make (5.00 / 0) (#13)
    by jondee on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 12:27:05 PM EST
    some conservative partyline point about the EPA being as repressive of citizen's rights as the DEA..

    What with all those enironmentalists trying to force clean air and water down our throats and all..


    Yeah, Jondee (none / 0) (#18)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 10:41:50 PM EST
    no one but you want clean air and water.



    EPA... (none / 0) (#15)
    by Rojas on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 08:54:57 PM EST
    That's the way I've always heard it. I always assumed it originated with the Dairy farmers. They had their world rocked down here back in late 70s through 80s, perhaps early 90s. Most if not all are gone in this area.

    It was passed around on the Internet several years (none / 0) (#17)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 10:37:41 PM EST
    ago via email.

    You just don't hang out with Conservatives.

    So no, I didn't make that up.


    I found it (none / 0) (#20)
    by shoephone on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 10:47:52 PM EST
    here but it's not an EPA guy, it's a Department of Water Resources guy. Circa 2008.

    The version I remember was EPA (none / 0) (#23)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 10:56:10 PM EST
    There was also a version where the dude was from the Obama WH.

    What on earth (none / 0) (#27)
    by sj on Mon Nov 28, 2011 at 02:01:30 AM EST
    is there about your comment, Mr Natural, that was worth a troll rating?

    It's a funny joke.  That's one reason why J posted it.


    What does LE (Law Enforcement) say? (none / 0) (#16)
    by JeriKoll on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 10:22:05 PM EST
    LE says that most crimes come about because people are on drugs (including alcohol and pills) or are trying to get drugs or to get the money to get drugs.

    By golly, I cannot stand (none / 0) (#21)
    by shoephone on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 10:49:52 PM EST
    John Pizzarelli. Cannot.Stand.Him.

    There. I said it.