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In the News

February 13, 2009 -- Drug War Chronicle (US)

Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske Named New Drug Czar

President Obama has named Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), colloquially known as the drug czar's office, a White House official confirmed Thursday. It is not clear when the official announcement will be made.

It is also not clear whether ONDCP will retain its position as a cabinet-level entity, which it has been under recent administrations. That, too, will be cleared up when the official announcement is made, the official said. The drug czar possibly being demoted could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on his proclivities.

How Kerlikowske will behave as drug czar is unclear. His has not been a loud voice on drug policy, but he has been police chief in a city, Seattle, that has embraced lowest-priority policing for adult marijuana offenses and needle exchange programs, and he has gone with the flow in regards to those issues.

Prior to being named Seattle police chief in 2000, Kerlikowske served as deputy director in the Justice Department, where he oversaw the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant program. He also spent four years as Buffalo's police commissioner. The military veteran has a total of 36 years in law enforcement, where he has earned a reputation as a progressive.

While Kerlikowske has a national profile in law enforcement circles, it is not because of drug policy. His interests have been around gun policy, immigration, and electronic data mining of private records, which he has criticized as highly intrusive and not very useful.

Drug reformers had advocated for someone with a public health -- not a law enforcement -- background to head ONDCP. But a progressive law enforcement official who has a record of tolerating drug reform and harm reduction efforts may make for a decent drug czar from the reform perspective.

"While we're disappointed that President Obama seems poised to nominate a police chief instead of a major public health advocate as drug czar, we're cautiously optimistic that Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske will support Obama's drug policy reform agenda," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "What gives us hope is the fact that Seattle has been at the cutting edge of harm reduction and other drug policy reform developments in the United States over the last decade," he said.

American Violet

Opens nationwide April 17, 2009

Based on real events and set in a small Texas town in the midst of the 2000 Bush/Gore Presidential election, American Violet tells the astonishing story of Dee Roberts, a 24 year old African-American single mother of four who is wrongfully swept up in a drug raid. Despite the urgings of her mother, and with her freedom and the custody of her children at stake, she chooses to fight the powerful district attorney and the unyielding criminal justice system he represents.

The film is based on the true story of Regina Kelly, who lived in Hearne, TX, the town where she was falsely accused of felony drug-trafficking charges based on the uncorroborated testimony of a single informant. Kelly successfully fought the charges with the help of the ACLU. Her case resulted in changes to Texas law.

Director: Tim Disney; Writer: Bill Haney. Cast: Alfre Woodard, Michael O'Keefe, Tim Blake Nelson, Will Patton, Charles S. Dutton, Xzibit, Nicole Beharie

For more, see

AG Holder Vows "No More Medical Marijuana Raids"

In a little-noticed remark during a late February news conference, Obama Attorney General Eric Holder said that the Justice Department will no longer raid medical marijuana dispensaries established under state laws but technically prohibited by the federal government.

The DEA continued to carry out such raids after Obama's inauguration, despite an Obama campaign promise to cease the practice. Holder said it wouldn't be the Administration's policy going forward.

"No, it won't be Obama policy", Holder stated. "What the president said during the campaign, you'll be surprised to know, will be consistent with what we'll be doing in law enforcement. He was my boss during the campaign. He is formally and technically and by law my boss now. What he said during the campaign is now American policy."

Source: Huffington Post (US)

Cops Don't Like Getting TASERed

Three members of the Metro Las Vegas Police Department are suing Taser International for injuries suffered during "training exercises" with the stun devices in 2003. Officer Lisa Peterson was permanently injured when she fell face first onto the floor after receiving a Taser jolt during a training seminar. She and two other members of the police force all claim in the suit that Taser failed to "adequately warn the police department of the potential for injury and minimized the risks of being shocked, which officers had been assured was not only safe but advisable."

Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned use of the devices as torture.

Source: AlterNet (US)

CIA to Blame for Missionary Deaths

The CIA obstructed inquiries into its role in the shooting down of an aircraft carrying a family of Americans in Peru in 2001, the agency's inspector general has concluded. The report said a CIA-backed program in Peru targeting drug runners was so poorly run that many suspect aircraft were shot down by Peruvian air force jets without proper checks being made first.

A small plane carrying Christian missionaries was shot down by a Peruvian jet on April 20, 2001, after it was tracked by a CIA surveillance plane that suspected it was carrying drugs. Veronica Bowers and her infant daughter, Charity, were killed, while their pilot, Kevin Donaldson, was badly injured.

Peruvians and Americans involved in the program told investigators that following the proper identification procedures could have given suspect aircraft time to escape. It was also sometimes simply easier to shoot down the aircraft than to force it down, they said.

"The result was that in many cases, suspect aircraft were shot down within two to three minutes of being sighted by Peruvian warplanes - without being properly identified, without being given the required warnings to land," the report said.

Source: Reuters (US)

Feds Investigate Sheriff Joe

The self-proclaimed "Toughest Sheriff in America" may have met his match. In February, members of the House Judiciary Committee asked Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to investigate allegations of misconduct and abuse by Maricopa County (AZ) Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

For years Arpaio has made a PR spectacle of himself: running an unconstitutionally deplorable jail system, letting inmates die under tortuous conditions, violating the civil rights and liberties of those under his control, especially minorities, and costing Maricopa County untold millions in legal settlements. With a fraction of their inmate populations, Arpaio's department has had 50 times as many lawsuits as the New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston jail systems combined.

His most recent embarrassment is the reality show, Smile: You're Under Arrest, where he tricks and humiliates those with outstanding warrants and parole violations on nationwide TV.

Source: AlterNet (US)

Ex-cops Sentenced in Kathryn Johnston Murder

Three former Atlanta police officers who each pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge in connection with the death of an elderly woman during a botched drug raid were sentenced in February to federal prison terms.

Jason R. Smith, Gregg Junnier and Arthur Tesler received sentences ranging from five years to 10. Kathryn Johnston, 92, was killed by police gunfire during the 2006 raid in Atlanta, GA. Police used a "no-knock" warrant to enter Johnston's house to look for drugs. But prosecutors said officers found none and tried to cover up the mistake by planting baggies of marijuana.

Source: MSNBC (US)

Aghhhh! Another Report!

This was going to be just another newsy mini-article about the latest report from The Pew Center of the States, 1 In 31: The Long Reach Of American Corrections (pdf), showing that one in 31 Americans are now under the control of the justice system (in jail or prison; on probation or parole). Another world record moment for the World's Leading Jailer.

I'm the one who reviews and links studies and reports at I have to wonder how many studies showing what an utter disaster the war on drugs is, how much evidence our nation's leaders need before they change bad laws? We have collected links to hundreds of pertinent studies, reports and other data from the last dozen years. If I printed them all, they would overflow a prison cell.

As social scientists statistically demonstrate time and again, the drug war applied is racist, ineffective, costly, counter-productive, inhuman -- but ideology prevails, the war drags on, and the prisoners endure another year. The facts are in: There is no justice in the war on drugs.

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