In this thirteenth part of a continuing series, I interviewed my brother, 18 year veteran police officer and detective, Howard Wooldridge (retired), with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, www.leap.cc ; www.copssaylegalizedrugs.com , now stationed in Washington, DC.
The purpose of this series aims to educate Americans on the ongoing fraud and deception of the U.S. government’s “War on Drugs” now dragging into its 38th year without a single success to keep drugs off the streets of America.
Officer Howard Wooldridge remembers a poignant moment in his career:
“The nine year old boy’s eyes grew as big as saucers as my 40 caliber Glock came into view and paused for a split second on his chest,” said Officer Howard Wooldridge. “Being the fourth officer through the door of the townhouse meant the woman and her three kids were already in a state of shock. We spent 30 minutes looking for the marijuana mentioned in the search warrant, coming up empty. In retrospect at least we had bothered to obtain a warrant!
“As we left, no one apologized for our intrusion, the terror we created or for any action on our part. Since we were the ‘Good Guys’, doing good work, what need was there to apologize? Looking back and realizing now what havoc I caused makes me ill. Incidents like this ‘spurred’ me into riding my horse across North America to speed the end of the most destructive, dysfunctional and immoral policy since slavery and Jim Crow.
“I spent 18 years in law enforcement near Lansing, Michigan. The first three were in a cadet-type program, the next twelve as a road officer and the last three as a detective. Essentially I did everything in police work but shoot someone or be shot at. The War on Drugs went from almost zero to a huge factor in my professional life as my career spanned 1974 -1994.
“When I first started, a mentor Lt. Terry Meyer summed it up best, “I don’t give a damn what you do in your own home. But what you do in public becomes my business.” And for the first 10 years we focused on public safety, not what an adult did in private. The turning point came about 1986, when we were educated on how to take property from citizens. I will never forget the two hour seminar I attended at the Michigan State Police Headquarters in Lansing. A narcotics officer was almost gleeful, as he explained to the uniformed, street cops how they too could become foot soldiers in winning the Drug War. “No drugs need be found in the vehicle to seize it,” he explained. “All you need is cash, drug paraphernalia or drug documents. How much cash? Your local prosecutor will decide. When in doubt, seize the money and vehicle. We can always give it back.”
“I was a mature 35 year old when they tried to enlist me in their money-making scheme. Without any conscious thought, I rejected what I learned. I continued my relentless pursuit of stopping people using 3000 pound killing machines (AKA cars and trucks) from killing innocent motorists in my Township. Who cares if Michigan State students have some pot in their glove box, as long as they were not driving stoned?
“My early twenty-something colleagues however saw catching pot smokers as great sport, fun and rewarding. They were rewarded with “Atta-Boys” from the chief for pot busts and especially when they were able to seize a car. Mind you, despite what you see on TV, the average car seized was 10 years old and worth $2,000. No matter, it all counted. I remember the first thing my chief bought with Civil Asset Forfeiture money was a pager for all of us….for the stated purpose so we could be quickly assembled if we needed to go on a drug raid. I looked at the thing with an Alice in Wonderland, what the bleep are we doing? Nonetheless, I carried it with me, like I carried my off-duty 38.
“Being the ever curious type, at the donut shop one night I asked my colleagues why they spent almost all their free time stopping and searching cars for a baggie. “It’s a hoot. It is so easy to get them to agree to a search. Chief likes it. I feel good about it.” they responded. “What about the drunk drivers that actually hurt and kill people?” I asked. They shrugged their shoulders. Talk about disconnect!
“A few years later I became our department’s first detective. As I investigated the home burglaries and car thefts, I learned quickly the drug war was the cause of 80 percent of theft crimes. Crack was the drug du jour and addicts needed about 200 dollars per day and were stealing to get the money. Addicts told me that some dealers would take the stolen goods in exchange for crack… a barter system. I saw the pain and anguish as home owners described their precious heirlooms stolen, their sense of violation knowing that strangers had been in their ‘castle’. As one homeowner described his grandfather’s pocket watch, his wife began to cry and the man suddenly slammed his fist into the wall. It was at that moment that I became conscious of my opposition to drug policy. Why not let these damn idiots have the all the crack they want until they are dead? Leave the good people of Bath Township alone!
“Two years after retiring and moving to Texas, I became a foot soldier in the movement to end drug prohibition. I expect to see it end in my life time but if not, I am confident that others will carry on the effort. I will work on this until Modern Prohibition is in the history books or I draw my last breath. Little boys do not deserve to have weapons shoved in their faces. That moment still haunts me 30 years later.”
“After 38 years of ‘Drug War’ and the arrest of 38 million Americans, the majority for marijuana possession, we must accept the reality that the state, through its police department, cannot fix personal stupidity and personal self-destructive behavior,” Officer Wooldridge said. “Only family and friends can help in such a situation.”
Today, my brother Howard Wooldridge heads up a task force in Washington, DC to educate and enlighten congressmen at the highest levels. He works for a better future for all Americans. He can be reached at: Education Specialist, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, www.leap.cc , Washington, DC. He speaks at colleges, political clubs, Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions Clubs across America. LEAP speakers in 36 states address this issue to citizens around the country to bring an end to the Drug War. Check out the web site and join. Book a speaker in your state! Wooldridge also presents at political conferences in Washington. firstname.lastname@example.org ; www.copssaylegalizedrugs.com
The mission of LEAP is to reduce the multitude of unintended harmful consequences resulting from fighting the war on drugs and to lessen the incidence of death, disease, crime, and addiction by ultimately ending drug prohibition.
“Envision a country which employs the principles of personal responsibility, personal freedom and limited/effective government toward marijuana,” Officer Wooldridge said. “I see a growing respect for the police, as they stop intruding into the decisions of adults, made in the privacy of their castles. Teens find it as hard to buy pot as beer. Fewer teens use it because it lost its glamour. Imagine a land where the deadly DUI and reckless drivers kill far fewer, as officers focus on them, not the next pot bust. Envision detectives arresting more child predators as they abandon the time spent arresting someone selling pot to an adult. All this becomes possible, when America becomes wiser and abandons the prohibition approach to marijuana.”