Interview with a police officer, part 2
By M.L. Simon
In a previous column, I began discussing the ramifications of the war on drugs (WOD) with Canadian police officer John A. Gayder, who founded a group called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). LEAPs most prominent American member is Sheriff Bill Masters of San Miguel County, Colo. What follows is the remainder of my interview with Gayder.
M.L.: Tell a bit about LEAP. What is your member base?
John: We started up in March of 2002. We recruit current and former members of law enforcement who believe the current drug policies have failed in their intended goals of addressing the problems of crime, drug abuse, addiction, juvenile drug use, stopping the flow of illegal drugs and the internal sale and use of illegal drugs.
The mission of LEAP is: (1) To educate the public, the media, and policymakers, to the failure of current drug policy by presenting a true picture of the history, causes and effects of drug abuse and the crimes related to drug prohibition;
(2) To create a speakers bureau staffed with knowledgeable and articulate former drug-warriors who describe the impact of current drug policies on: police/community relations; the safety of law enforcement officers and suspects; police corruption and misconduct; and the financial and human costs associated with current drug policies;
(3) To restore the publics respect for law enforcement that has been diminished by its involvement in imposing drug prohibition;
(4) To reduce the multitude of harms resulting from fighting the war on drugs and to lessen the incidence of death, disease, crime and addiction by ultimately ending drug prohibition.
We went public with www.leap.cc in July and, in eight months, have gained over 300 members. LEAP has 25 speakers scattered among 15 states of the U.S., and in Canada, Australia, Colombia, and England. Concerned citizens who have no law enforcement background have also joined us as Friends of LEAP. We have had little time to recruit members because our directors and speakers were immediately invited to speak at international drug policy conferences in Albania, Austria, Belgium, Costa Rica, Italy, Mexico, Russia, and the United States. By the end of May 2003, we will have also conducted at least 82 speaking appearances at business, civic, benevolent, and religious organizations, as well as at universities and colleges.
M.L.: What is the biggest obstacle preventing officers from changing their minds about the drug war?
John: Except for the most ardent drug warriors, a large percentage of officers will privately admit that the war on drugs is a flop. Their minds dont need changing; they just need motivation and an outlet to do something about it … enter LEAP.
For those who understand the failure of the WOD, there are a few factors at play that keeps them from admitting it publicly or doing anything about it.
Firstly, the policing profession is a paramilitary environment. There is a rank structure. Those wanting to climb the rank ladder require the approval of those above them on the ladder before they are allowed onto the next rung. Achieving and maintaining each position on the ladder is somewhat dependant upon toeing the line. As an aside, I feel this requirement for conformity is a major, though hidden, cause of work-related stress for officers: knowing something is one way but having to say it is another is not good for your psycho-emotional health.
Anyway, I guess the biggest obstacle to be overcome is to get officers to think about the consequences of the WOD in relation to the way it negatively affects their profession. Like Ben Franklin said, logic is often not the best persuaderself-interest is. Unconvinced officers need to see the harms to their image and profession that the inherently contrary nature of the WOD is creating.
Contact John A. Gayder at email@example.com, www.leap.cc.
M. L. Simon is an industrial controls engineer for Space-Time Productions and a Free Market Green (c) M. Simon – All rights reserved. Permission granted for one time use in a single periodical publication. Permission also granted for concurrent publication on the periodicals Web site.