Saturday, February 19, 2011

Outlawing drugs creates a black market and leads to police corruption

The San Jose Mercury News is reporting today that Norman Wielsch, commander of the state's Central Contra Costa Narcotics Enforcement Team, or CNET, was arrested on charges "of running a narcotics-selling scheme, possibly with confiscated drugs." Also arrested by federal agents was "Chris Butler, who runs the investigative firm Butler and Associates."

Both men were booked into County Jail in Martinez on as many as 25 suspected felony offenses, including possessing, transporting and selling marijuana, methamphetamine and steroids, and embezzlement, second-degree burglary and conspiracy.

Probably most narcotics enforcement agents are on the up and up. It's not everyday one is arrested for the crimes Mr. Wielsch is accused of committing. However, it is the case that the rich profits which can be made selling drugs--due to the fact that they are not regulated and illegal--give cops a strong incentive to do so.

My guess is that there is at least one police officer on every police force for a city the size of Davis, 65,000, or larger who is corrupt, who is either stealing drugs from evidence lockers or is shaking down dealers.

Very few of these corrupt officers are ever arrested. I suspect that is so because their departments are either unwilling or unable to investigate them. Yet all the time there are stories in the news about confiscated drug evidence missing from police lockers.

In the last few days there was: 1. a story in Georgia about 2 kilos of missing cocaine; 2. a story in Broomfield, Colo. about missing drugs from their evidence room; 3. a federal lab which tests drug evidence in California missing large amounts of that drug evidence; and 4. a story from Boston where "hundreds of bags" of drug evidence is missing.

Common sense suggests, if some cops are willing to steal evidence from drug lockers after it was placed in custody, far more would just never enter that evidence in the first place. It does not seem hard to imagine that there are many police officers profitting from the drug trade by taking cash payoffs from wealthy drug dealers in exchange for not arresting them or stealing the money from them or confiscating the drugs and never reporting that confiscation.

All of these sorts of corrupt police activities were rife in the days of alcohol prohibition. There is no reason to think they are not common in our times of drug prohibition.

The answer to ridding police departments of these crimes is not just to investigate and arrest bad cops. It's also to legalize and regulate the production, distribution and sale of street drugs, which would wipe out the profits and take away the incentive for cops to be dishonest.

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