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by Peter Moskos

December 3, 2011

The war on drugs and your police career

There's an article in the New York Times about officers who question the drug war... and get fired for it. LEAP, an organization I've been part of almost for almost nine years, is well featured.

Hard to imagine a cop being fired for questioning the rationality of any other law. But the war on drugs has always been a bit of an odd crusade that tolerates no dissent. Did officers during Prohibition get fired for saying it didn't work?

Police are asked all the time to enforce laws they don't agree with. I did. I see no problem with wanting to end the war on drugs and being a good police officer. I arrested drug dealing while wanted to see drug legalized... in which case public drug dealers would still be arrested (there would just be a lot fewer of them).


Adam B. said...

I don't even understand where there's room to argue about whether marijuana should be legalized. There's a legitimate cost/benefit analysis to be made in terms of drugs like heroin and cocaine, but weed? I used to ask other BPD cops about this and never found one who thought it was important that we continue marijuana prohibition.

IrishPirate said...

There's a case out of the NY Federal District where then Judge Sotamoyor ruled in favor of a New York cop who in his off duty time passed out white supremacist literature. His department tried to fire him. I'm damn near a free speech absolutist and I have some issues with the outcome of that case. It would have been nice if the cop in question had the decency to die of something painful before the case came to court.

I don't recall the legal citation because I'm drunk right now. Legally, drunk. By that I mean it's legal for me to be drunk.

Freedom of Speech is a bitch sometimes, but I hope these fired officers eventually prevail.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Moskos,

As a native resident of Brooklyn myself, avid reader of your blog, and someone who is moving to Baltimore I thought you might find this piece very interesting (particularly the policing section). In some ways this article ties into what the Occupy Wallstreet et al is about as well- the hourglass economic model (now squeezing white collar workers), long term city sustainability, and community relations.

Thanks for your time.

Anonymous said...


Above is the link*

Anonymous said...

IIRC, Izzy Einstein, the famous Prohibition agent, never denied that he was a "wet." But hey, it was a job, and he was good at it.

PCM said...

I bought and read Izzy's book. It wasn't very memorable. But he did seem like the kind of guy who would drink most of his booze before busting the gin joint.