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Friday, February 8, 2008

Drugs, Sex & Rock `n Roll: Cops Across the Land Seduced by Drug War

Lately the news has been filled with stories of law enforcement officers accused of violating the very laws they swore to uphold and the sacred trust of those they swore to protect.

* NYPD has been rocked by a corruption scandal involving the midnight crew of the Brooklyn South Narcotics Division. Accusations include: stealing drugs, using drugs to pay informants, sex with prostitutes and informants.

* In Santa Fe, New Mexico one of the two former members of the SFPD narcotics squad charged by federal agents last year has pleaded to one felony count of theft of $5,000.00.

* In McAllen, Texas Carlos Landin Martinez, a former police commander in Mexico was just found guilty on charges from his assistance of the Gulf cartel's smuggling operations.

* And, in what has to be a tragic comedy of errors, 23-year old Carsten Douglas, a detention center guard, has been accused of smuggling pot into the jail after being blackmailed by inmates who stole his handcuff keys.

When I compare the NYPD scandal to Officer Douglas' SNAFU, I almost feel sorry for Douglas. As for a department with a history of scandal that precedes the events that made Frank Serpico famous and nearly cost him his life I hope justice is served - this time, at least.

There is so much that can be written about how narcotics assignments can seduce officers with so much temptation in so many ways. Perhaps, another time, the economy cries out for a focus on the financial impact of corruption. Oh, yes, these incidents represent a tremendous waste of taxpayer money and criminal justice system resources.

Add salaries of personnel - narcotics officers, administrative personnel, prosecution staff, public defender staff, lab tests, evidence processing and storage, court costs, etc. - for the initial investigations. Then add the costs associated with internal investigations. Now add the costs of prosecuting the officers of all ranks. Add the costs of reviewing all the cases made by the officers, the costs of incarceration of previous defendants who may be freed, the proceedings to determine whether defendants will have their guilty verdicts overturned, the new prosecutions in instances where prosecutors think they can overcome taint of corrupt officers, add the costs associated with jurors and jury duty (both to the state and to the individuals), and then you might have an idea of how much corruption costs taxpayers.

In New Orleans they are asking if they can afford the cost of the drug war in an economy damaged by Hurricane Katrina. I think citizens and taxpayers across the globe, but especially here in the U.S.A., should be asking a similar question, Can we as a society afford the war on drugs?

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