Police Deviance and the ‘War on Drugs’

Posted: October 3, 2011 by ashley9917 in Police Corruption and the 'War on Drugs'

The War on Drugs and police corruption on their own are both controversial and important topics; but are they related? Is the War on Drugs tempting our police officers to be more corrupt?  Many would argue that it does in fact do that and in turn the War on Drugs does not fight or deter crime, it promotes it.

When a search is run on ‘the War on Drugs’ on the search engine Google a large range of web pages come up, from the definition on Wikipedia to songs performed by a group called the war on Drugs.  One of the posts from www.Drugsense.org contains a “drug war clock” that states how much money is being spent on the ‘War on Drugs’ at this very moment.  While this clock can be interesting to look at it does not begin to explain why we are spending these large amounts of money on something that to most people seems to not be working.  Overall, most sites seemed to be non-reputable and many seem to be concentrated more on the fight in the United States.  It was when a search was run on the ‘War and Drugs’ and Police Deviance that a wider range of more useable sites came up which is what is mostly used in this piece.

In 2002, 41 Tijuana officers were arrested for allegedly working with drug traffickers, protecting shipments of drugs, taking bribes and even for executions (Preston Preet, 2002).  Generally police officers are under paid for the services that they provide and it can be easy for them to fall victim to the criminal life because of the large sums of easy money it provides.  As Maurice Punch (2009) describes in his book “Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing” cops are just like any other normal person and can just as easily be lured into the temptation of easy money as a criminal could.

For many officers that are dealing with the War on Drugs it could become very frustrating seeing so many drug-dealers get arrested and go to prison to have the same amount come back out on the street the next day.  While the officers are trying to fight the War on Drugs they could feel that they, no matter what their efforts, are consistently being beaten.  This could eventually lead an officer to live a vigilante like life.  The officer might fabricate evidence or lie under oath just to try to put as many suspected drug-dealers away as her could – while his intentions are for the greater good, it is still a form of police corruption.

In Tennessee police officers have become notorious for conducting searches of trucks on the highway headed west bound, which is believed to be the route after the drug drop has been made and the dealer is in possession of all the money, not east bound, which is considered to be the route with the trucks full of the drugs (News Channel 5, 2011).  The officers are pulling over the trucks on the west bound because they are legally allowed to confiscate the money if it is suspected drug money (News Channel 5, 2011).  The officers seem to be more interested in confiscating the money than they are in busting the bad guys with the drugs.  One of the most interesting things about this is that the offices do not need to charge the person for a crime in order to seize the suspected drug money.  For the full video on this incident follow this link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTeH9D_tN-k&featureyoutube_gdata_player .

With the failure of prohibition, because of the high demand and the criminals willing to go against the law to provide the people what they wanted, we as a society should be able to learn from our past experiences and know that the War on Drugs is not currently working the way we want it too.  With police corruption being a part of the problem what can we do to abolish corruption in the police force and the streets?  Would it be decriminalizing drugs or maybe harsher punishments?  The War on Drugs and the involvement of police corruption will continue to be a controversial issue until we can answer that question.

 Reference Cited

News Channel 5. (2011). Tennessee Law Enforcement Stealing Money from out of state innocent motorist. Retrieved from http:/www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTeH9D_tN-k&featureyoutube_gdata_player.

Preet, Preston. (2002). Police Drug Corruption. Retrieved from http://www.drugwar.com/pcopdrugcorruption.shtm.

Punch, Maurice. (2009). Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing. Portland, Oregon: Willan Publishing.

  1. Mike Larsen says:

    A few questions:

    First, what, from a criminological perspective, is the ‘war on drugs’? On a related note, what is meant by the ‘failure of prohibition’?

    Second, what are the forms of police deviance associated with the war on drugs? You mention corruption associated with financial gain and rule bending associated with the pursuit of convictions. Are there others? It may be helpful to explore the links between the war on drugs, the militarization of policing, and deviance associated with the use of force during drug interdiction operations.

  2. ashley9917 says:

    From a criminological perspective the War on Drugs is the cause of more crime than anything else. What is meant by the failure of prohibition is simply that it caused more harm than good, i.e., organized crime.

    There are many other forms of police deviance linked to the war on drugs such as vigilante justice.

  3. Mike Larsen says:

    A news item of interest from Truthout: http://www.truth-out.org/former-narcotics-detective-admits-drug-planting-common/1320333381 .

    “Stephen Anderson, a former New York Police Department (NYPD) narcotics detective, recently testified that he regularly saw police plant drugs on innocent people as a way for officers to meet arrest quotas. While the news may shock many civilians, the custom is so well known among officers that it has a name: “flaking.”

    This practice has reportedly cost the city $1.2 million to settle cases of false arrests.

    “The corruption I observed … was something I was seeing a lot of, whether it was from supervisors or undercovers and even investigators,” said Anderson.

    And if anyone is an expert on planting drugs, it’s Anderson. This is a man who was busted back in 2008 for planting cocaine on four men in a Queens bar.

    “It’s almost like you have no emotion with it, that they attach the bodies to it,” Anderson coolly admitted to a reportedly stunned Brooklyn courtroom. “They’re going to be out of jail tomorrow anyway – nothing is going to happen to them.”

    Forgotten in that detached assessment, obviously, is the horrific experience of being in jail; the financial burden of having to pay up to a $500,000 fine; and, oh, having a criminal record possibly wreck one’s chances of future employment – not to mention dealing with the social stigma of being in jail; the travel restraints; the loss of voting rights; difficulty in finding affordable housing; and dealing with barriers to education (the Higher Education act was amended in 1998 to delay or deny federal financial aid to students on the basis of any drug offense,) among other hurdles too numerous to list.”

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