Police Corruption and the War on Drugs

Posted: October 1, 2011 by viktoriia9 in Police Corruption and the 'War on Drugs'
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The ‘war on drugs’ is a series of actions and policies tending toward a prohibition of illegal drug trade. The term “war on drugs” was first used by president Richard Nixon in 1971. Drug abuse, said the president, was public enemy number one. In Canada, the war on drugs has given rise to a number of anti-drug campaigns such as “Drugsnot4me”. The Government of Canada has committed approximately $102 million in new funding over five years to implement the Enforcement Action Plan. This Plan provides funding to the RCMP so they can expand their anti-drug teams to investigate organizations involved in the production and distribution of illegal substances. However, current drug policies also lead to the corruption of governmental officials and police departments. Drug enforcement police are particularly vulnerable to bribes and corruption.

There is almost universal agreement that the war on drugs has failed. The article “The war on drugs is a failure” notes that this is an ineffective strategy that has to be replaced with more humane and efficient drug policies. Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy argues that the war against drugs violates human rights, damages environments and fills prisons with drug users. War on drugs takes away police time from pursuing “real” criminals and requires the police officers to treat addicts as criminals. In 1998, the United Nations Drug Control Program predicted the inventible risk of drug-related police corruption. The report suggested that “wherever there is a well-organized, illegal drug industry, there is also the danger of police corruption”.

Preliminary research indicates that the war on drugs causes police corruption. According to Maurice Punch (2009), police corruption relates to abuse of power and trust. Corruption can occur in a small groups or even throughout the entire organization. Punch (2009) emphasizes that in some forms of police corruption there is no financial gain. Several investigations of drug-related police corruption found on-duty police officers engaged in selling drugs, protecting drug operations and providing false testimonies. Although material gain was found to be a motive common to drug-related police corruption, New York City’s Mollen Commission identified power and vigilante justice as two additional motives for drug-related police corruption.

The results of the web audit defined the phenomenon of the war on drugs and described the relationship between the war against drugs and police corruption. Finally, the search provided a critical evaluation of the effectiveness of the drug-related policies. The main sources of the topic overview are the governmental reports, news media articles and Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy site. Wikipedia page contains information related to the incidents in the United States and Latin America. Governmental and independent web sites have apparent differences in interpretation of the concept. The limitations of the preliminary research include access to information and recourses within Canadian context.

  1. Mike Larsen says:

    A great first post.

    The ‘war on drugs’ has transformed policing in many ways, including changes in tactics, technology, and powers. For example, the rise and expansion of paramilitary special units, the expansion of surveillance capabilities, and the ongoing ‘arms race’ in policing are all related to the broader ‘war on drugs’. One of the implications of this is that beyond the link between the war on drugs and police corruption, the continuation of this policy framework actually gives rise to new policing practices – and consequently new opportunities for corruption.

    Further food for thought: Several criminologists and many other observers have argued that (1) the illegal market in prohibited drugs is a massive, transnational, organized economy (2) history teaches us that it is impossible to ‘win’ a ‘war on drugs’ based on prohibition and interdiction, and (3) it is impossible to run an illegal massive, transnational, organized economy without the widespread corruption of a variety of public officials. If each of these points is true, what does this suggest about the prospects for controlling police corruption related to the war on drugs? What should be done?

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