Saturday, December 5, 2009

In Memory of Marcellus Ward

Ward was killed 25 years ago. His assassination and last dying breaths were caught on tape and haunted the memory of many Baltimore police officers.

At a memorial, held where Ward was killed, Commissioner Bealefeld said that it is "not for us to judge the results of his sacrifice." And certainly a memorial to a slain officer is not the time and place for that.

But at some point we need to ask. Why are we risking our lives? What are we getting in return? If we don't ask these questions, more good men and women will die.

The block Ward give his life to protect has long since died. Like too much of Baltimore, it's vacant, boarded up, and abandoned. Here's the 1800 block of Frederick, odd side:

By risking his life to protect others, Ward died a hero. That I do not doubt or forget. But it's hard to imagine that Baltimore or Frederick Avenue would be any worse off today if Ward had simply called in sick that day. And the world would certainly be a better place if Ward and other officers killed in the drug war were still with us. I've said this before (to the consternation of some). I don't want to see any other officers killed for a war we are not and cannot win.

When I put my life on the line every night for the men and women of the Eastern, I would often think about the fallen officers pictured on the walls. Ward always stood out for some reason. (I'm not making it up that his picture hangs in the Eastern, am I?) From what I heard he was a good guy. And from his picture, he just seemed more human than most other cops pictured.

Police Commissioner Bealefeld is a good man and the best commissioner Baltimore City has seen in a long while, certainly better than the previous five commissioners (I'll only vouch for worse commissioners as far back to and including Frazier). Maybe Bealefeld even gets it when he talks about the war on drugs and the "seemingly impossible task" of winning it? Who knows. But the war isn't his to call off.

Here is Peter Hermann's take and his story in the Sun with the sad headline: "At memorial, a new vow to wage war on drugs."

[from Peter Moskos's Cop in the Hood]


  1. This link should be forwarded to every town council person, Mayor, Judges, state Rep. Governor, Congressman, Senator, any one that is in elected Office. And ask what would be a fitting tribute for this Officer?

  2. I would really like to see what the feedback is?

  3. I've noticed that if you are a cop and support prohibition, it is considered perfectly acceptable to use deaths like this to argue for the death penalty for murderers and harsher drug laws, and harsher laws altogether. But if you are opposed to the war on drugs and talk about a tragedy like this, then they go ape and accuse you of using a death for political purposes. But then it has been my experience that most in law enforcement (present company excluded) don't think too deeply or rationally about things.

  4. I understand your need to focus on the "seemingly impossible task" as noted by the Commissioner. Undoubtly, it fuels your agenda to promote the legalization of drugs in the fashion of "Can't beat them, why not join them". Fact is, that's the easy way out, and I'd bet you probably don't have any children to worry about.
    I'm on the front lines everyday, drugs destroy people and drain our society. If my entire career results in just one kid avoiding drug addiction whether it be from prevention/education or from me locking up some scum bag distributing the poison, then I've done my job.
    I shudder at the thought of a world you imagine.

  5. Rest in Peace Marcellus Ward, be assured your brothers will pick up your sword, stand the line, and continue the fight.

  6. Anonymous--with the kids. The system your advocating sees to it that the kids who unfortunately dont avoid drug addiction wind up behind bars because their addiction is criminalized. I was one of those kids who did get poisoned and wound up drug addicted, and locking us up instead of the helping treat our disease is epidemic. I was young and partly made the choices I made specifically because they were taboo. What happens when prevention doesn't work? I was a good kid from a good home and I'm thankful for my recovery today, and my second chance. I'm not defending theivery, murder, crime in support of habits, but prevention needs to include education about the real problem, and adequate and appropriate measures drawn forth. Criminalizing the disease of drug addiction is the worst preventative measure there is. I say that from the continued front line.

  7. Anonymous at 7:57pm - Ah, yes, the old "you won't understand the drug war until you have children" gambit.

    When I have kids, if one of them does make a poor decision regarding drug use I would want them to be assured of the purity and quality of the drugs they are getting. I would want their decision to use drugs to be based on facts and not hysterical exaggerations.

    And if they needed help for a drug problem I would want them to talk to a doctor or a psychiatrist or get some treatment. I certainly wouldn't want them to get their drugs from a violent predatory drug dealer on a downtown street corner. And I certainly wouldn't want to see my kids put in jail for using drugs.

  8. It's been said that cannabis consumers have an image problem, right. Thought this sort of thing would surface eventually David.
    "Drugs" don't destroy people Anonymous at 7:57pm, Prohibition does. Apparently you have absolutely no understanding or knowledge of how Prohibition even started.

    One of the latest fatalities of this idiotic war on drugs sent a 19 year old to prison for 26 years. He was a small time cannabis seller. Oh now, that's really dangerous isn't it?

  9. Anonymous - I have two kids, and I shudder at the world YOU'VE created. There are no controls on the distribution system in place today, so no on will ID my kid before they buy drugs. I would much prefer an alcohol-like control method to the Cartel-driven underground you've fostered.

    I want to protect my duaghters from drugs until they're old enough to make their own decisions, and your system DOESN'T WORK!

    It's not the easy way out, it's the hard way out. It's easy to perpetuate the status quo. It's harder to admit our FAILURE, and make the right changes. I hope one day you wake up and realize you're destroying American lives with jail, instead of saving them with recovery.

    Congratulations on being a cog in America's second failed Prohibition. I figured 80 years would be enough for everyone to learn from our mistakes, how much longer will it take for you?

  10. So only people with kids get to make public policy?

  11. The pro-drug war position in 5 seconds:

    Shudder away, my friend.
    Meanwhile kids are getting shot in the head, corrupted by drug dealers, and sent off to prison. Face it, the kids you claim to care about are white middle class ones. The blacks can go to hell as far as you are concerned.

  12. I was going to respond to the anonymous comment #5 above, but I see you folks have already pointed out the flaws. As others have said, if we're truly committed to making this world as safe as possible for children, drug prohibition should be public enemy #1.

  13. Anon 7:57PM. Do you understand that alcohol is a drug? It doesn't sound like you do.
    What is the point of a war on cannabis when alcohol is legal and far, far more deadly than cannabis, utterly no comparison? Will anyone even try to answer this question? It sure doesn't seem like it.
    But don't expect any of the targets of prohibition to respect your alcohol supremacist laws when no one can be bothered to lift a muscle to defend them. All you're doing regarding weed is ordering people to use alcohol instead of cannabis, and red blooded Americans don't accept being ordered around, especially in such a flamingly hypocritical way. And for the Christian prohibitionists, you might want to remember that Jesus HATED hypocrisy, or as you would put it, Jesus HATES hypocrisy.

  14. So I guess I'm a racist now for advocating the continued prohibition of drugs, and, I also base my position solely on being a father. The fact is, ah Bill, I care about all of the children in OUR country, not just whites which you jump at the opportunity to say for lack of a better defense of your flawed views. Besides, the white kids may not get shot in the head-they just end up dead after overdosing on the heroin they just bought in the hood. There are NO winners here.

    Why don't you guys (gals too) explain to me how heroin and cocaine, if available in our country legally, would work. I would anticipate the diversion of these drugs to anybody, including juveniles, just like we see now with oxycontin and so on. This would be just a sub market of what we have now. (and yes, people rob and kill for these Rx pills just like all the other drugs) I also see addiction going through the roof and do I need to point out the social ramifications of that? How can a society prosper and run when people are all f'd up? Seriously.

    Mr. Bratzner, "when you have kids" is woefully inadequate. You will never understand until you actually do- and if anyone in this forum with kids disagrees with me, then they need to check themselves. Everyone (with kids) wants their children to make informed decisions. To resign yourself to the idea that your future kids will do drugs of only the best quality and then have access to doctors and psychiatrists as a result of their "informed decisions" is just a little skewed, don't you think? Why not try to avoid that up front?

    I support drug prevention and subsequent treatement for addicts. The end user needs treatment but ultimately, it's their decision to commit the more serious crimes landing them in jail. There are plenty of people out there NOT addicted, NOT using, but distributing for the sole purpose of making money off the backs of addicts. Those people should rot in hell-the one's that pushed and sold drugs to Kelly (above) and ultimately resulted in her addiction.

  15. For the record: I have kids.

    Anonymous, when you "see addiction going through the roof", you are simply wrong. Addiction to alcohol did not go through the roof when prohibition of that drug ended. Addiction to heroin, morphine etc. did not decrease when prohibition of those drugs was imposed. Prohibition has been absolutely proven to do NOTHING to reduce addiction. In fact, drug use rates in the US, one of the most aggressively prohibitionist countries in the world, are among the highest in the world.

    If prohibition were actually keeping any kind of lid on addiction, the US would have LESS of an addiction problem than other places. It actually has more.

    How would legally available heroin and cocaine work? At regulated prices, sold through pharmacies which have specific licences to sell these substances, to users who show their ID and prove their age. Users would know the strength of what they get, and would be able to take the amount that enables them to function. Because the price would be regulated, and not inflated 17,000% by prohibition, they would be able to hold jobs and would NOT be smashing the window of my car. Switzerland has already proven that this is the result of legal, controlled supply at controlled prices.

    Diversion through resale would happen, but the amounts would be absolutely trivial compared to the black market that exists now. You talk as if there are millions of heroin non-users waiting for heroin to become legal so that they can try it. This is utter nonsense. Show me such a person, anywhere! They simply don't exist. People who don't use heroin don't use it for a simple reason that has nothing to do with the law: They (we, really) don't want it.

    Your illusion (really a delusion) is that prohibition means that drugs are NOT sold or supplied. Your delusion is that the choice is between prohibition, where drugs don't exist, and legalization, where they do. This is completely false. Drugs exist; they are supplied; they are sold; and they ALWAYS will be. The choice is between prohibition, where the market is totally uncontrolled and the money goes to criminals, and legalization, where we control the market and the money.

    If your argument had any value, you would necessarily have to demand the prohibition of alcohol as well, since it is one of the more dangerous drugs out there. Since you do not, your argument is self-contradictory and thus without merit.

  16. And for the Christian prohibitionists, you might want to remember that Jesus HATED hypocrisy, or as you would put it, Jesus HATES hypocrisy.

    Hi newageblues. You got that right! On both counts! Darn tootin' he's alive. :-) And you know what they say, "he sees you when you're sleeping, he sees you when you're awake. He knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness' sake." :-)

    Dear Mr. Anonymous @ 11:07 PM,
    Why don't you guys (gals too) explain to me how heroin and cocaine, if available in our country legally, would work

    Please see here: and scroll down to the PDF for "After the War on Drugs - Options for Control." Please also take the time to check out the other publications on that page. Particularly, "Illegal drugs. The problem is prohibition the solution is regulation and control."

    Why not try to avoid that up front?
    Plain and simple. The effort you espouse has been tried many times and is only making things drastically worse! Remember alcohol prohibition? Take a look at the statistics for drugs imported in to the USA. The more the self-righteous heavy-handed approach tries to stomp out all the plants it doesn't like, the more valuable they become.

    Since you are so sure that heavy-handed crushing is the answer, ask yourself why you can't keep drugs out of prisons.

    The bottom line for the source of so many problems, including drug prohibition is humans forcing their will on other humans. Be a father of yourself, your kids, or your aging parents, but you are not my father.

    I feel very sorry (and angry at) people on this planet who sit on their throne and act like a mean god, dictating to other adults to the point of where we are today with drug prohibition. If you don't want to drink alcohol fine, don't. If you don't want to smoke the calumet with your friends, fine, don't. If you don't want to expand your mind with mushrooms, fine don't. If you prefer to deal with your headache without pills, fine don't.

    But I agree with the poll on the LEAP home page, unlike you apparently, I do not think that once we legalize and regulate drugs people will run to their doctors and beg for a heroin prescription. I also firmly believe that once teenage/20-something girls see how quickly other women have appeared to age after using meth, they will not need to hear one word of scary stories or be threatened with urine tests. But if someone chooses to do those things, do I really have a right to force my will on them?

    I also see addiction going through the roof and do I need to point out the social ramifications of that? How can a society prosper and run when people are all f'd up? Seriously.
    The false prophets of alcohol prohibition and those who resisted ending it used the same logic. How correct were they? Maybe you overcame an addiction, perhaps alcohol or cigarettes. But not everyone has problems with those drugs. I tried cigarettes a few times and thought they were disgusting. I've heard others say the same thing about meth, even heroin.

    If you truly are concerned about our society prospering you would:
    1. Be totally against drug prohibition. For the amount of money that is wasted on it is insane; the planet is being trashed, human lives are being trampled and screwed up, citizens' freedoms are being curtailed to the degree which the Founding Fathers themselves hated and outlined in the Declaration of Independence, we're blowing hundreds of billions of dollars — debt which your kids will inherit — giving money to corrupt government to fight cartels, and on and on.

    2. The real drug is money and power. If you are so concerned about society prospering you would fight tooth and nail to root out the crazy conflicts of interest that infest our political system and fight against corporate monopolistic consolidations.

  17. Mr. Anonymous, with regard to pills, check out the old LEAP blog where they posted some essays about that.

    I can't recall what they said, perhaps it formed the basis of what I will write here.

    I recently spoke with someone at church who was against ending prohibition, like you, and noted that pills are legal and a problem.

    1. Thinking you can totally end all problems is not realistic. You may be able to discipline yourself, but how old are you now? Did you never rebel against your parents because you were angry at them? But perhaps you were a momma's boy and did everything they said and you were perfect, but face the facts, not everyone is.

    The best you can do is try to minimize the dangers and harms, drug prohibition makes the claim "I will prevent everyone from using drugs," which as we know, DOES NOT WORK! It makes them worse.

    2. In keeping with minimizing the harms and dangers… At least when those pills are diverted to the black market they are what they claim to be. They are the pill as the manufacturer made them under regulated conditions.

    The woman I spoke with had a grandson she said was in treatment for pill addiction. But at least he was alive. Chances are if those pills he bought on the black market were illegal, they would not be pure, but would contain various toxic garbage, and certainly he would be far worse off, perhaps dead.

    Assume for a moment that a passionate mob of people assaults Congress to ban these dangerous pills because their relatives are in drug treatment due to the misuse of pills, because their relatives were trying to have fun, to get high (vs. actual medical use). Ok, so Congress can't resist and bows to their pressure, now those pills are illegal. What do you think would happen? Do you think the people who enjoy them will want to stop using them? Some might stop. Others might not. But as long as people are asking, people will probably go to work in their basements and concoct something that seems like them. But chances are they will not be, and will end up killing people, more people than would die if the pills were legal and regulated.

    So what's the answer? Well, it's not surrounding kids with bubble-wrap, or surgically installing monitoring devices, or locking a chastity belt on them, or putting a timed lock over their mouths.

    My suggestion is to stop wasting so much money on drug prohibition and then more resources could be allocated to policing pills, if that is needed. Perhaps more strict regulations need to be in place as the pills pass through various channels. I don't know. But I did read a story that was ridiculous, Congress or the FDA pressured some pill manufacturers to coat the pills with plastic or some such, to make snorting them less attractive. Maybe we can concentrate on the people who actually need the drugs.

    However, when it comes to teens, like Dr. Hochman alludes to, it sure is easy to blame inanimate objects than to question one's self.

  18. Sorry to hear about Marcellus, reminds me of the story I heard about Neill Franklin's friend.

    I'm probably going to start singing "Blowing in the Wind." How many…

  19. The points raised in response to "Anonymous" are all valid and good. I would also point out that the Netherlands has a lower rate of marijuana use among teenagers than we have here. And it is easier for kids in this country to buy marijuana than it is for them to buy tobacco or alcohol. Legalization and regulation will save lives and reduce the access that children have to drugs.

  20. And yes the drug war is racist. We incarcerate blacks at a far higher rate than they did in South Africa before Apartheid. Look at the reasons why we first passed drug laws in this country. It had nothing to do with protecting children. The goal was to harass and punish minorities.

  21. That should read - "before Apartheid ended."

  22. Another thing - on this kids issue.
    Milton Friedman had kids, William F. Buckley had a kid, Governor Gary Johnson has kids, Ron Paul has kids, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, I could go on and on. It is a phony argument for you to make. You want to tell us, Mr. Anonymous, that you supported drug legalization and then changed your mind after the birth of your first child? Please tell us.

  23. Yeah the idea that the presence of children somehow justifies prohibition is intellectually bankrupt. Nobody on any side of this argument believes it's acceptable to put kids in danger. What we have are differences of opinion regarding the best way to protect children from the "drug problem" at large.

    So let's stop the condescension and the implications that we anti-prohibitionists are somehow ignoring the issue of children. We're not at all. We simply believe that a system of legal regulated sale would be a more effective approach to the reality of drug use, and would ultimately create a much safer environment for the world's children.

  24. what my grandfather did was to help this city free from drug usage and abuse i represent this city as much as my grandfather did im marcellus ward his grandson and i assure you i will join his brothers to continue the family legacy i put that on everything i love

    1. Hi Westen, I’m sorry about your granddad. It’s always hard to lose someone you love.

      But as all the speakers for LEAP will say, their efforts to free their cities from drug use and abuse did not work. There was only the appearance of it working, but in fact, all their efforts only provided more financial incentive to get into the drug market. Removing dealers only created a void that was filled with violence until a new victor emerged.


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