Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Speaking out, but still silenced: Anonymous cop criticizes War on Drugs

This post is the first in a new blog series by an anonymous police officer who wants to join LEAP in publicly speaking out against the “war on drugs” but is afraid to because he fears being punished by his department.

As an active duty veteran police officer, I would love to publicly join Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and freely speak out against the drug war.  However, I am scared, yes scared, to join LEAP publicly. Although many active duty law enforcers are already speaking out publicly with LEAP and maintaining their careers (more on them later), I believe I would be punished by my department for my advocacy or perhaps even fired.

Despite my current silence, I believe a paradigm shift regarding the drug war is quietly occurring in every law enforcement agency in this country, thanks in large part to the efforts of LEAP.  This paradigm shift is palpable— I can see it, feel it, and on occasion I hear it slip out from fellow officers and even supervisors once in a blue moon.  I firmly believe things are about to change in this country, and when they do, those within law enforcement will be jumping off this drug war rat ship like it was on fire.  And the jumpers will proclaim that they knew the drug war was wrong the whole time.  But alas, I am not here to judge or point fingers at those wearing badges—I wear one too.  I too am riding on that drug war rat ship.  Gladly, I will be jumping off that rat ship with everyone else.  In the meantime, I can point no fingers, except at myself.  

Russ Belville of NORML SHOW LIVE reads this blog post out loud:

For those of us in law enforcement, we are quite sensitive and aware as to the consequences of publicly joining LEAP.  For those not in law enforcement, a further explanation is in order.  Allow me to describe why active duty cops generally do not speak out publicly regarding the harm from drug prohibition, even when they know it is wrong.  Let us begin with the viewpoint of your average person in law enforcement.

We are scared that in “rocking the boat” and speaking out:

1)    We will be terminated and lose everything.
2)    We will get passed over for promotion, lose the position that we currently hold, or fail to be transferred to more desirable assignments within our agency.
3)    Fellow officers and supervisors will blacklist us for appearing “weak” or “soft on crime”.

These are the everyday real-life reasons why I have not gone public, and why I believe active duty members of law enforcement usually remain silent about the 800 lb. “drug war” gorilla in the room.

There are also underlying psychological and personality reasons that make cops reluctant to speak out: 

1.        Ego
2.        Ignorance
3.        Denial
4.        Fear
5.        Lack of shame of #1-#4

I will be the first to assert the primary reason for my silence, and the silence of most cops, is an economic one (the fear of losing my job).  But after 40 years of an insane drug war, is economics the only reason cops have generally remained silent?  Honestly? Give me a break. This is not just about fear of losing one’s job—this is also about the character and spirit of the person wearing the uniform.  Ignorance, for many cops, listed above, is a self-imposed ignorance of “not wanting” to know.

An additional reason many cops are reluctant to speak out against the drug war is a pervasive mentality that says, “We don’t make the laws, we just enforce ‘em.”

After nearly two decades of being a cop, I am disturbed by this mentality on a daily basis.  I am disturbed that my fellow officers generally disassociate themselves from enforcing bad laws.   I have often wondered at what point cops would voice distaste for politicians creating even more outrageous laws.   Is the general silence due to the 40-year drug war political campaign?  Has this made these bad laws acceptable in society?  Is it because some politicians and newscasters reading teleprompters tell us these bad laws are OK?  (Of course, there are more and more leading politicians speaking out loudly against the drug war these days, a trend that is likely to continue.)  Is it because our churches are generally silent on this issue?   Is it because your mom lied (and my mom also lied) about the drug war?   My answer: all of the above.   So...when a young cadet walks in to his or her first day of the police academy, all too often the hearts and minds of these future cops are well conditioned for what is to follow.

I remember the very first day of my police academy when a veteran cop came strutting in the classroom wearing the gun and badge that we all wanted so badly.  I looked around the classroom and everyone, myself included, looked up to this cop with respect and reverence.  We all wanted to be this guy.  With bravado and feeling, this cop strolled around the classroom and eyeballed each one of us, informing us how to think and act if we wanted to be a cop.  We hung on every word.  One of the bullet points drilled in to us was:  “We don’t make the laws, we just enforce ‘em.”  No one raised his or her hand to debate this—it was a take it or leave it statement.  We took it.  We wanted that badge.  Trust me, this exact same mentality is alive and well in virtually every police department in the U.S. 

So what does this have to do with cops, myself included, failing to speak out publicly against the drug war?  Because we are trained from day one to detach ourselves from the emotional aspect of the law, to simply enforce the law.  In other words, we are not supposed to have an opinion on whether a law is good or bad.  We are supposed to be robot drones, albeit with some discretion, and enforce the law whether we like the law or not.  It is this mentality that is pervasive among the men and women in law enforcement.  It is this mentality that has grown another branch on the tree of silence regarding our failed drug laws.

After doing this job for many years, I can tell you that many officers have, at least to some degree, convinced themselves that enforcing bad laws is okay because they themselves did not make these bad laws.  Therefore, why would an officer publicly speak out about bad laws for which they have no control?  This is the real culture within law enforcement that is nurtured and carefully taught to every class of young men and women cadets.  It is time for this mentality to stop.

“But what about freedom of speech!” you ask?  (Pardon me for a moment while I laugh.)  One would think that law enforcement officers would have freedom of speech. But officers have been terminated for expressing their views about the failed policy in the war on drugs.  Have some law enforcement officials publicly joined LEAP and kept their careers?  Yes, and thank God for these exceptions.        

For example, LEAP speaker, Richard Van Wickler, has worked in law enforcement for over 20 years, the last 15 as superintendent for the Cheshire County (NH) Department of Corrections.  For years, Wickler has spoken out publicly against our failed drug war, yet has maintained his career, even being named “Corrections Superintendent of the Year” in 2011 by the New Hampshire Association of Counties.

Other active duty members of LEAP have faced resistance. Jonathan Wender, then a police sergeant in Mountlake Terrace, Washington, for example, was fired for his anti-prohibition advocacy. But Wender didn’t take it sitting down; he sued, and in January 2009, the department settled, reinstating Wender and giving him back pay and full benefits.

So, things are slowly getting better and, I believe, will get better thanks to organizations like LEAP.  But in general, at the time of this writing, we as public servants will in many cases lose everything by publicly speaking out against this shameful war on people.     

Hopefully this starts to give you a sense of why many cops who know the drug war needs to end are reluctant to say so in public. In my next post, I’ll discuss how I came to find out about LEAP and further elaborate on the reasons I want to speak out but am reluctant to.


  1. Part of being a police officer's training should also include a seminar on "Under What Conditions Will I Disobey Enforcing a Law?"

  2. Best of luck to you my friend,, God bless all of you Law Enforcement people here!!

  3. Thanks so much for posting this, Anonymous. It truly helps those of us outside law enforcement to understand your situation.

    I will quote your phrase "jumping off this drug war rat ship like it was on fire" every chance I get.

  4. You can get this post in video form by visiting the "Highlights" section at http://live.norml.org. LEAP has given us permission to read these for a new segment on NORML SHOW LIVE called "ANONYMOUS COP".

    Share this post and the video with your Facebook, Twitter, and email friends. They may know a cop, or know someone who knows a cop, and the more cops know there are cops like them who oppose the drug war, the more they can begin to speak out.

  5. This may be true, or maybe 'not' true.. but one thing remains, cops are HATED, and many wish them dead,, for very good reason. Millions of Americans agree, that cops are one HUGE problem and they are public enemy number ONE second only to prohibition.

    I refuse to give any service to any cop at my business, they are told to leave immediately. A cop must PROVE to me he is an American.

    1. I don’t find your message to be in any way productive; that goes double considering it’s in response to an officer working to right the wrong that is the war on drugs.

      What on earth are you trying to accomplish?

    2. Counter productive at best. Two wrongs don't make it right. I say we support anonymous' right to speak out and maybe other officers will feel they can speak out as well. My husband and I have a federal ten year sentence hanging over our heads, for growing medical marijuana for safe access since 2007 - California voters decided mmj was legal in 1996. Citizens and cops speak out, our rights are being taken away, one by one... Whatever happened to land of the free and home of the brave? For more information, please visit our webdite: www.steelescase.org - KEEP FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT!

  6. @crimguy.com, I agree. Isn’t there some sort of precedence for that? Seems to me there were some disobeying orders trials that came out of the Vietnam war.

    Of course, going further upstream it seems there should be some punishment for the people like Biden and other politicians who wrote laws contradicting the Constitution. I think at a minimum it should include Obama dumping Biden as his VP.

  7. Anonymous’ essay (thank you for it) shows the conundrum of trying to fix things from the inside vs. trying to fix things from the outside.

    I’m reminded of the saying that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

    I’m sure I’ve seen movies (or Twilight Zone/Outer Limits episodes) where due to fear, a sad peer-pressure took hold and kept everyone from saying the Emperor Wears No Clothes. But I can’t think of any right now, but that children’s story suffices (and the link too).

  8. @Anonymous It’s good you know of Richard Van Wickler and Jonathan Wender. But please do not forget Matthew Fogg. His girlfriend, his family, and practically none of his co-workers stuck up for him as be spoke out against the racism of the Drug War.

    But I would put forth that episode in his life is darn near the equivalent of “loosing it all.” I’m reminded of another secular saying, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Some might think I am thinking about money, no. We’re talking about trying to fix horribly broken institutions and they can’t be fixed with a pay-off to their victims, they are fixed when the rules/laws/policies that guide them, and even individuals at the controls, are removed and better ones installed.

    But none of that will happen as long as people are cowed.

    I understand that at times radical change or radical statements aren’t appropriate, sometimes they are, sometimes not.

    Please let me encourage people to download and print the business card sized LEAP sayings; perhaps leave them in business card baskets in restaurants, push them through the vents in lockers, etc… be creative. Don’t forget you’re probably being videotaped, so be ready to talk.

    But there is a clever “out.” Act like you’re pissed or surprised at finding such a thing (depending on the level of “against” that person is) and hand it over. “Can you believe there are cops who think like this?” Then hand them whatever saying you think is best.

    LEAP Sayings

    From a Christian perspective, when you “loose everything” you are really gaining what matters. I.e. you loose the stuff you can’t with you (when you die) but you gain things you do take with you (when you die). As far as #2 and #3, worrying about praise of humans is vain. History shows that those who stick up against injustice are honored FAR MORE than those who don’t. I agree it sure feels horrible while it’s happening, but …

    If you’ve been a cop for 20 years doesn’t that count for something? I mean it sounds like you have some serious seniority. At least compared to what I’ve heard the working time of cops is.

    I think your assessment of the reasons for reluctance to speak out are accurate. And that it’s not limited to cops, but is also true for doctors, scientists, teachers, bankers, politicians, factory workers, etc…

    Frankly, to me, this just shows why our country is TOTALLY DOOMED. We hear mucky mucks chant about “critical thinking ability” (less so these days as bald greed has given over to the chant for “high paying jobs”) and the importance of education.

    But our society is completely contradictory, those in power claim they want an educated work force, but they act completely hypocritically to that by feeding people mis-information, blasting them when they speak against the party line, impugning their character instead of addressing the issues raised, etc…

    The cruise ship U.S.A. has long ago run aground but magicians are busy trying to get people to buy cabins and shop for curtains and interior decorations and accessories.

    1. from a christian point of view,hmmm, I think he might be talking about things of this planet when he speaks of losing everything, possibly like his job, his home,, somehow I just don't think any of this pertains to after he is dead.

  9. I just saw this TED video today: Mikko Hypponen: Three types of online attack.

    It really speaks to how “free” govts. have become like Nazi Germany and worse. (Not to mention the book Drug Warriors and Their Prey.)

  10. Thank-you officer anonymous... what you're saying I have no doubt is true. You don't make the laws, your job is to enforce them. The problem is/are the law-makers. Take Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum (sp? I don't g-a-s)... smoked pot in college. Now, campaigning for president he says he was "wrong to use marijuana".

    Wrong? Wrong how? From a legal standpoint, personal, religious, or political future? Legally, sure, he was wrong, as are millions of Americans. Morally, we have a human right to use marijuana. The laws are wrong, only politicians bark about how they protect children. But if they really wanted to protect children they'd pass laws outlawing adults as adults, outlaw alcohol, tobacco, porn, casinos, sex outside of marriage, including fornication.

    Romney is an even worse case... publicly coming out in support of the War on Drugs, he favors strengthening it, and when asked if pot smokers should be arrested, he said "no", but added that "illegal drugs are bad, the war must continue to keep drugs out of the hands of children".

    Only Ron Paul understands the War on Drugs is not only the real wrong, but also a seriously flawed action against Americans.

    Even President Obama gets a failing grade in my book... talking the talk to get elected, but not walking the walk. More of the same old impotence to deal realistically and directly with the real issues in America.

    50,000 dead in Mexico in a War that makes no sense whatsoever... and nearly every lawmaker thinks that's not only okay, but it's just the beginning. It's like a dog-fight... remember a certain athlete arrested for dog fights? Well most politicians are doing the same. Pitting human against human, neighbor against neighbor, your friendly cop against society.

    You have a first amendment right to freedom of speech and expression. I suggest, as you've done, you use it.

    But I don't think you need to be so shy. To do so undercuts the integrity of our Country and all it's stands for. The War on drugs is wrong. The politicians are children. The future of our nation is at a critical mass... our prisons over-flowing.

    Time everyone was given a voice. And a name.

  11. This is a quick note to say thank you for writing this post. I completely respect your decision to remain anonymous at this time. A lot of people don't realize that the ability of a rank-and-file officer to participate LEAP depends heavily on the state or province where the LEO works, as well as the police department. A lot depends on the police chief as well.

    As you may know, I am a serving law enforcement officer who participates in LEAP while off-duty. I always make it clear my opinions do not represent those of my department. And even though I've taken these precautions, there have still been a few bumps in the road since I started speaking publicly for LEAP in 2008. LEAP has a three part series about free speech for active duty officers: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

  12. Please support this important question, that Obama will have to answer on January 30th 2012, if you tell enough people about it:

    "Why do you ignore the historical fact and obvious reality, that the prohibition of psychotropic substances for adults is a discriminating and fascistoid tool, supplying billions to the Mafia monopoly and preventing control of access, age and quality?"


    Search for "fascistoid" to find it.

  13. God bless all of you. Just like the massacre in the village of My Lai, it took a tremendous amount of character and courage for three servicemen to say no to their superiors that day, rescuing villagers with a helicopter and even going so far as threatening to shoot their fellow soldiers if another woman or child was fired upon. Just like the political climate of police work today, these soldiers were not recognized for their bravery until years later- instead swept under the rug to avoid a public discussion of the real issues at hand. Keep fighting the good fight, however you have to and however you can. The conviction of knowing in our hearts and minds what is right is what we have to rely upon.

  14. The Nuremberg Trials established that "obeying orders" is not sufficient excuse for performing evil acts.

  15. You're absolutely right, and I've been saying this for years now. It's really refreshing to hear the same sentiments from people on the ground in the drug war, so to speak. The drug issue is one of consumption and demand, not of supply or control - people have illness when it comes to addiction and self-medication and the healing comes from within and through social programs not from taking down some thugs. When you arrest a user or a pusher, a new one will take their place before you've even booked one, and when they get out they'll just go back to same-old-same-old.

    Reform is what is needed, and a new strategy on the war. Like you say, it's a war on people, and instead of war it should be treated as what it is: an illness that needs healing and nurturing. You do that by first legalizing and taxing drugs, and taking that money and the jobs it creates to build social programs for rehabilitation and sowing people that drugs are not really making their lives any better. We need to treat the demand, not the supply. The supply will ALWAYS be there and out of our control as long as the demand exists.

    Thank you for speaking out.

  16. I used to work for DEA as a contractor. I traveled and visited almost every DEA Office in the USA and their Country Office in Mexico City and seven other offices throughout Mexico. I too believed that the Drug War was a huge waste of time and taxpayer dollars and that we would all be better served if the drugs were legalized and regulated, which would eliminate the criminal element and the millions of homicides related to drug trafficking since the War on Drugs began. Of course, DEA is not interested in hearing logic and who could blame them. They certainly don't want to lose their jobs and the billions of taxpayer dollars they receive annually. The fact of the matter is that most hardcore, addictive drugs, like heroin comes from Afghanistan, the same Afghanistan that we have had thousands of troops and CIA agents at for the past 10 years. The CIA has been trucking the heroin from Afghanistan to the streets of Russia and airlifting it on military air transport to military bases in California and distributing it throughout America and at a very low price. The Taliban nor Al Qaeda has the vehicles or aircraft to do that. Once the drugs are sold, a portion of the money is used to fund our numerous overseas illegal covert operations and the rest of the money is funneled to members of Congress and other government higher ups and that is why the War on Drugs continues to this day. This is not a conspiracy theory, it is a fact, a fact that you will never see reported in our corporate owned/Zionist (AIPAC) owned and CIA controlled mainstream news media. As for the victims of these drug arrests, they are seen as money makers for our privately owned prison system. The only way I see putting an end to this massive crime of corruption is by having truly brave police officers expose the truth anyway they can, either via the mainstream media (if the mainstream media allows them to do so) or via protest like joining the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

  17. When I was a child seventy years ago, policemen were regarded as friends. Now they are just "cops" who do the bidding of politicians who do the bidding of politicians, bureaucrats and the corporations who own them. They manhandle common citizens (even the law abiding), use military gear and tactics, enforce laws they KNOW are wrong and counter-productive.

    It makes no sense for "The land of the free and the home of the brave" to have more people in prison than any other nation (and a greater percentage of its population).

    The phony "war on drugs" resulted in 1.6 million citizens being arrested (in 2009) while only on third that number were arrested for violent crimes (and slightly less for DUI than for drugs)

    The "war" goes on because it is profitable for many people -- regardless how much damage is done to the multitudes.

    I congratulate those in law enforcement with the courage to speak out against stupidity.

  18. I love the fact that so many people get it these days. Yet get so disappointed when I see the media and government establishment do everything they can to stop Ron Paul. He is the only candidate I have seen that speaks the truth about the perversions of the drug war and prohibition. If only everyone one in America knew about their rights as a juror, and defendants of non-violent drug crimes could plea for jury nullification, especially in marijuana related cases. The people have been and always should remain the 4th branch of the government. Please support FIJA.org, Ron Paul for President or hopefully the Libertarian Gary Johnson!
    Watch Freedom watch on FBN @ 5pm.

  19. Although I understand this officer remaining silent, in NO way can I respect it. HE is the reason that prohibition will last longer. He admits knowing what is good/bad, right and wrong, and even commends the active duty officers who speak out and are LEAP members. He shows that it paid off for those 2 officers to speak out. (One went through hell probably, but came out a winner and the other has been promoted) So, why can't this officer who knows what is right (come out of the closet) and stand up for the fact we lost the war on drugs and need to stop fighting it? His answer: is along the lines of fear of being fired and losing his income, which would certainly adversly effect his family. This is NOT an excuse to remain silent. If everyone had this mentality nothing will ever be changed. I know this is so easy from a civilian to write and can't imagine the difficulty and fears he would have. Nonetheless, he knows what the right thing to do is and won't. I am a loving father with a huge heart and wish nothing but the best for the officer. I do appreciate his time to write what he has. I had a hell of a time coming out as an atheist after living a lie for so many years. It hurt so many people. Christians need to know that good, kind, loving, and giving people who do not believe exist. Again, nothing but the best of wishes to this officer and the cause.


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