Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Excellent Article by Diane Goldstein in Ladybud


Time to Return the Peace to Peace Officer
APR 1, 2013

Time to Return the Peace to Peace Officer

In 1983 I was hired as a police officer in the community that I grew up in. If you had asked my friends, they would have said law enforcement was an unlikely professional choice for me, but I understood that it would not just challenge me personally, but that I could also make an impact in other people’s lives. So I took my oath of office and attended the academy, where I was given the basic tools necessary to enter an incredibly complex profession. What I learned immediately is that the most vital skill that law enforcement uses is effective communication. I believe that words matter and that what is currently lacking in the administration of justice is that we no longer emphasize the “peace” in “peace officer.”
In the United States, law enforcement agencies have statewide credentialing organizations aptly named Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) which is tasked with ensuring the professionalism of the police. In California, in addition to POST, the law also designates us as peace officers with policing authority. Philosophically we have strayed from the mission of being peace officers and I would argue that we have instead become “police officers” by virtue of our failed national drug policy. The distinction is a subtle one, as there are times that as professionals we must “police” people who are harming others, but I believe our core mission is to be peacekeepers within our communities by serving others.
What I learned immediately is that the most vital skill that law enforcement uses is effective communication.
In order to discuss the impact of the drug war on policing we must understand the purpose of law enforcement. Law
Sir Robert Peel: Father of Modern Policing
Sir Robert Peel: Father of Modern Policing
enforcement authority was established as a theory of a social contract that recognized obligations between constituents and government. Kardasz notes that as members of a community we agree to abide by the rules and laws of our state and cede our right to defend ourselves and our property to the police. Sir Robert Peel, the father of modern policing, developed ethical principles that clarified the roles and relationship of the police and the public they serve. He posited that “The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions.” As our federal government continues to impose a one-tool solution to the political problem of drug use in America, I believe the public’s support of law enforcement’s effort in waging the drug war is waning, and with it, the moral authority from which it derives it power.
In the court of public opinion, a recent Rasmussen poll reflected that only 7% of Americans believed that the United States is winning the War on Drugs. I stand with others polled who believe that our national drug policy is an abject failure. Every society in history has used mind-altering substances of one form or another. The smart ones have acted to reduce the harm of that use rather than trying to prevent it altogether. Throughout my 21 year career in law enforcement I saw the damage that this  war on human nature has caused. The unintended consequences of trying to achieve a drug-free America have done more damage to  those we have sworn to serve. From opinion pieces to headlines, we are inundated with stories of police misconduct, excessive force allegations, personal corruption and what is now known as Machiavellian police corruption, where the police officer believes they are acting correctly because the end justifies the means.
The survey revealed that when asked if the War on Drugs had been successful in reducing drug use 82% of our national law enforcement leaders stated no.
One recent example, a piece in the New York Times titled “Why Police Lie Under Oath” by Michelle Alexander, was gut wrenching to me, not less so because it’s a topic largely ignored by police professionals across the United States. Alexander clearly points out the Machiavellian effect the Drug War has had on our profession with distinct examples of how and why police lie in order to meet quotas, obtain promotions or simply because they can as they are more respected within the community. But these lies, although not publicly supported, can and do at times occur with a wink and a nod as just one more aspect of the means justify the ends in saving American’s from themselves.
The recognition that our national drug policy has not been successful is not news. Our law enforcement leadership cadre admitted as much in survey conducted in 2005 by the National Association of Chiefs of Police (NACOP).The survey revealed that when asked if the War on Drugs had been successful in reducing drug use 82% of our national law enforcement leaders stated no.In light of these findings, why have our political and law enforcement leaders not recognized the impact of the drug war on relationships between police and the communities they serve? Since Nixon initiated the “War on Drugs” in 1970, each and every president, attorney general and drug czar has tried to perpetuate the perception that we are winning the war. In addition to playing cheerleader, the federal government has funded the expansion of the War on Drugs through both increased grants and by allowing local police departments to share money and other property seized through federal asset forfeiture laws. Currently as a nation we spend more than 41.3 billion dollars a year in continuing to wage a rhetorical war on an unachievable goal of a “drug free” America.
Drug Abuse Resistance Education: Mandatory for all school children since the 80s!
But this continued optimism and funding has a significant cost to our society. It results in law enforcement and other policy makers’ unremitting support in a mandate that no one is willing to challenge contributing to a groupthink mentality. Consequently, the public recognizes the impact of the Drug War as a failure as they watch their neighbors, families and friends suffer the consequence of discriminatory laws impacting not just minorities but all Americans, and resulting in the tearing of the social contract between law enforcement and the citizens they serve.
Both the federal government and law enforcement leaders have largely refused to admit that in attempting to win an unwinnable war they have lost the trust of the very people they have sworn to protect. In a situation similar to our entrenchment in Vietnam, our politicians and law enforcement leaders know that this war is unwinnable, but continue to sacrifice their officers and their communities by not searching for the truth. In 399 B.C., Socrates, reflecting on life’s purpose, challenged the Athenian government, saying, “There you are mistaken: a man who is good for anything ought not to calculate the chance of living or dying; he ought only to consider whether in doing anything he is doing right or wrong – acting the part of a good man or of a bad.”
Both the federal government and law enforcement leaders have largely refused to admit that in attempting to win an unwinnable war they have lost the trust of the very people they have sworn to protect.
From my experience in law enforcement, I believe we have a moral imperative to critically analyze public policy by questioning how we enforce social order and demand that above all we aspire to conduct ourselves as Socrates envisioned governance by knowing and doing good above all else. By using this lens to study what the role of law enforcement should be, we can reflect upon and correctly assess the destruction of the peace officer and its effect on our society. Clearly, it is time to end the Drug War and return the peace to the term “peace officer.” We must engage in a discussion that challenges our politicians and law enforcement leaders to design policy based on science and harm reduction strategies that includes compassion and human rights.

Diane Wattles-Goldstein

Diane Goldstein is a 21-year veteran of law enforcement who retired as the first female lieutenant for the Redondo Beach Police Department, (CA). During her career she worked and managed a variety of patrol and investigative units. She is recognized as a subject matter expert and trainer in the area of crisis negotiations and critical incident management. During her career she was one of the original founders of the California Association of Hostage Negotiators receiving an Honorary Life Member Award in 2007. She is a speaker and Executive Board Member for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a guest columnist for The 420 Times and has appeared on radio, and television as a commentator.


  1. Really an excellent article. As a user of all sorts of illicit psychoactive chemicals I have lived my whole adult life on the receiving end of the war on drugs. For the people who use drugs, the police are not your friend, they are your enemy. It's not the cop's fault (they didn't create drug prohibition), but how else would you view somebody who has the power to take away your liberty, possessions and children? (It's not like you can find justice in the court system when 90% of cases never get to trial. Also as the article noted, many officers lie under oath. The system is rigged so that even if you are innocent you are better off copping a plea vs risking decades in prison.)

    I don't like fighting, in all my life you could probably count the number of physical altercations I've been in on one hand. By far the most terrifying altercation I've been in involved police. I was once pulled over after picking up a couple bags of dope, cops searched my car for an hour but couldn't find it as I hid the dope under my tongue. After tearing through my car the officer even made me drop my pants, in the middle of the street! Fortunately it was very late and there weren't many people around, but still it was humiliating. Eventually they asked to search my mouth and I swallowed it in front of him. Well the officer didn't like that, he and his backup proceeded to punch me and slam my head on the hood of my car, hard enough to leave a dent. The sense of powerlessness is indescribable...here I am with my hands handcuffed behind my back trying to defend myself from two grown men with guns, clubs and mace. Not exactly a fair fight, plus you know if you resist you're going to face real charges of assaulting a cop (and who's gonna believe a drug user vs a police officer?). Better to take the beating and walk away with your freedom.

    I don't hate cops. I see it as a very difficult job, you are responding to people in times of crisis, when human nature is at its worst. I've met cops who were paragons of professionalism and courtesy. There are cops too who confiscate a few bags of dope, some crack rocks or a bit of weed, then "lose" the evidence down a storm drain and let the user go. I've seen it happen. I've also known cops to buy a homeless junkie a meal, or give them a ride to the local shelter. There are cops who believe "to protect and serve" also means not letting the homeless freeze or starve to death...not all police officers dehumanize and abuse drug users. However enough do that drug users are very wary interacting with police at all.

  2. An excellent article, though lengthy... as many know "the war on drugs" began long before 1970, long before the marijuana tax act of 1937. It began in the early 1900's in response to a large population - larger than historically noted, and the damaging effects of unfettered use of narcotics and alcohol. Two federal acts and a Constitutional Amendment later, by 1920, the feds had addressed the issues of "dangerous drugs". They included cocaine, morphine, opium and alcohol, but did not in fact include cannabis.

    Alcohol prohibition never made it unlawful for an individual to consume alcohol, it made it illegal to manufacture and distribute it. Alcohol prohibition was ended when the federal gov't was broke and needed tax money and in addition couldn't afford to fight the costly war on alcohol as the violence the amendment produced was unprecedented.

    Cannabis was next on the list in the 1930's when immigrants, illegal types were "invading" the US and were too costly to contain. Yellow Journalism added the Emancipation Proclamation to the mix - the freeing of Blacks after the Civil War to create the myth of marijuana madness - a horror story of Mexicans and their marijuana (that in the US we called it ganja) and Black artists and musicians that used it and the allegations that it contributed to a sexual mix of White Women and Blacks... and to add additional horror it was alleged that American youth were doing God-awful crazy thing under the influence, when truth is, it wasn't true, none of it.

    By 1970, when the Marijuana Tax Act was found to be Unconstitutional, Tricky Dick Nixon, President of the US defied the requirements of the Controlled Substances Act that stipulated the Shafer Commission findings would determine the status of cannabis as far as whether it would be maintained as a Schedule One drug or not, and the Shafer commission determined it should not be controlled. Nixon disagreed and declared "A War on Drugs", with cannabis as the linchpin in controlling drugs, and since then, law enforcement has been the military on the ground on American soil enforcing his psychotic decision.

    Instead of common-sense harm reduction which is what was envisioned in the early 1900's, "Peace Officers" have become Orwellian warriors... the citizens of the US have been subject to propaganda that has no basis in reality and many people haven't had the facts to know what to believe, and blindly repeat the mantra "Just Say No" while drinking or smoking themselves to death using alcohol or tobacco, while those who prefer a docile lifestyle using cannabis are threatened, arrested and denied jobs.

    Kudos to Diane Goldstein for speaking out... I am 58 and I can tell you for a fact that the "War on Drugs" has alienated the American public to law enforcement, and the whole idea that police are peace officers is not any-longer a belief most people have. I was raised that police were my friend... they could be trusted to ensure my safety as an American, but since the 1970's I know they are not my friend and cannot be trusted... and it's not because I am am a criminal minded person... but because in the 1970's I found cannabis to be the safer alternative to alcohol and tobacco.

    Agreed, nothing is better, but nothing also includes avoiding sugar, salt, red meats, fatty foods, junk foods, unsafe sex, poker, etc... I live in NH, the "Live Free or Die State", and honestly... death is more desirable than fearing police and avoiding the aforementioned no-nos.

    Before I die I would wish that police once again are my friend. Is that too much to ask??? Stop the Hurt... Stop the War!


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