Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The War On Drugs And The Deterioration Of Police-Community Relations


My old friend and sometime neighbor, film-maker (Super High Me) and marijuana legalization activist Alex Campbell, was very much there for me when I was undergoing the ravages of chemotherapy. He talked me into trying marijuana to help alleviate the devastating and life-threatening side-effects of chemo. It worked. Today I asked Alex to explain the connection between the War of Drugs and the accelerated friction between police and the communities they're supposed to be serving.

An American Police State
-by Alex Campbell

If you live in the United States of America, you live in a police state. You may say, no this is not possible, not in my town. Not my neighborhood.

Unfortunately, it is now an undeniable truth of our society in the U.S. We have all the hallmarks of a police state-- our electronic communications are the subject of surveillance and our movements on the roadways are monitored by license plate readers. Asset seizure without legal due process has become the norm. Political speech is met with force-- see Ferguson and Occupy Oakland.

The police state began with the rise of the military industrial complex, it became institutionalized with the Nixon administration and was sent well on its way with the Reagan era "war on drugs." And then 9/11 happened. Which brought the Patriot Act and accelerated the militarization of the police and the erosion of the rights of the citizens of America in the name of protecting us.

The truth is, we need to be protected from the police now. The police forces in this country have adopted an "us against them" mentality. If you are a person of color in America, you are more likely to be killed by the police then you are by a terrorist. If you are traveling on the interstate roadways and you are carrying more than a thousand dollars in cash and you are pulled over and the police find the money, they are going to seize it and claim that it is proceeds from drug crimes. Because no one carries cash anymore except drug dealers. There is no due process, no trial. The money is taken and in most cases, people don't fight the charges because it costs more money in legal fees than the sums that are taken. This process is called "for-profit policing" and in many localities the police use the proceeds to buy more "toys" aka specialized weapons and tank-like vehicles.

The police in this country used to be viewed as friendly fixtures in the neighborhood. The local beat cop lived in his beat, knew the people who lived there, and cared about his neighborhood. Now the local beat cop commutes to his job and views his position as an occupying force to maintain law and order over the underclass. The LAPD's motto is "To Protect and Serve." The real slogan should be "To Oppress and Control."

Recent technological advances have exposed the lies of the modern police state, namely dashboard and body cameras that police are required to wear, as well as citizens who record police interactions with their smart phones. FBI Director James Comey spoke out against what he called the "Ferguson effect" of viral videos and said that the recent uptick in violent crimes could be due to police being afraid to do their jobs because they are concerned they will end up in a video. Public comments such as this are no doubt a precursor to legislative attempts to make filming the police an illegal act. And in North Carolina, legislation was recently passed that requires a court order to release dashboard and body camera footage, further hiding what the police are doing. The governor of North Carolina said that the new law would bring "transparency"-- a truly Orwellian turn of phrase.

With the recent spate of violence against police officers, you can be sure there will be renewed calls for new laws protecting the police. And hidden within these new laws will be more ways for the police state to dodge accountability and hide their activities-- all in the name of protecting the citizenry but in truth protecting the illegal and unconstitutional activities of the police state.

Our judicial system has become corrupted by the lies police tell in order to make "righteous busts." The prosecutors and the judges are complicit in these lies. I saw this corruption firsthand as a medical marijuana activist over the past ten years in California. In case after case that I have attended, I have seen narcotics officers outright lie on the stand to support warrantless entries or to support weak cases. And watched as the judge and the prosecutor all played along with the kabuki theater, all in the name of stopping the war on drugs.

All police lie to support their illegal actions. There is even a word they use privately to describe this behavior-- "testilying." Our policing systems in America are broken and we will not survive as a republic if the police state is allowed to expand unchecked. It has turned into "us against them"-- the very institution that is supposed to protect and serve the American people now views the American people as the enemy. And many Americans, especially those of color, view the police as an enemy.

I believe that if we can end the war on drugs, we can help change the way policing is done in America. The war on drugs has given the police cover to commit egregious acts and allowed the police to become a quasi-military force where they make the rules. Ending the drug war will give less reasons for the police to oppress the citizens--there will be no more stop and frisk policies such as existed in New York City. Nor more unlawful asset seizure without due process No more no knock warrants. And the police can turn their attention back to their original purpose--protecting and serving the community. A huge level of fear of the police will disappear overnight if the drug war ends. And that alone should help shift police and civilian relations.

This post was inspired by a recent letter to the editor in the Arizona Republic:

Ending The Drug War Would Help Bridge Police-Citizens Divide

After all the police shootings, only the Libertarian Party provided a viable solution:

"If we truly want to reduce situations in which police are pitted against the people they are sworn to protect, we would end the war on drugs. The constant escalation of prohibitionist policies have increasingly pitted police and citizens against each other for decades and are largely responsible for the militarization of police forces across America.

"Ending the violence means ending the policies that lead to black and gray markets, the highest incarceration rate in the world, and reduced economic opportunities in the formal labor market for huge swaths of Americans. Ending the violence means ending the war on drugs.

"Ending the drug war will do more to heal the divide between police and citizens than any other measure. It is the best way to save lives: both those of innocent police officers and innocent citizens."

- Dr. Richard W. Morris, Phoenix

While making Super High Me, Campbell become radicalized after being repeatedly threatened by DEA and California law enforcement officers over his filming of their raids of medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivators. He moved to Oakland and started working with Richard Lee in Oaksterdam. Campbell delivered the cannabis plants to the first set of classes held at Oaksterdam University, which at the time were in a small storefront in downtown Oakland. In 2008, Campbell opened Oaksterdam Nursery, Los Angeles and was the first medical marijuana cultivator to provide a trusted source of genetics to multiple dispensaries around the state of California, everywhere from Sacramento south to Orange County. Oaksterdan Nursery is widely recognized for releasing the first legitimate cutting of the fabled OG Kush strain, the availability of which reduced wholesale prices of cannabis by 25%.

Campbell was the second largest donor to the Prop 19 campaign in 2010 throughout much of the campaign and was involved in the day to day operations of the campaign. His financial political activities were curtailed when DEA and LAPD agents raided his legal cultivation facility in Los Angeles during the middle of the Prop 19 campaign, a precursor to the larger raid of Oaksterdam in 2012 that was widely viewed as payback for putting Prop 19 on the ballot.

Campell is currently in post-production on two documentaries. The first, titled Super High Me Redux, is a comedic sequel to Super High detailing the difficulties the filmmakers had in making the original film. The second film is titled Oaksterdam Now and is the story of the Prop 19 campaign and the subsequent large scale police raids that resulted in no indictments.

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At 4:40 AM, Blogger CNYOrange said...

Forget the professor's name, he's a history professor who has studied the history of police forces in the US. He has written that the police were NEVER created to protect and serve their communities, their creation was to protect and serve the 1%.


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