After the first sixteen interviews with my brother Police Officer and Detective Howard Wooldridge of Lansing, Michigan (retired) concerning the “War on Drugs”, hundreds of readers responded. U.S. taxpayers do not understand the incredible deception perpetrated on them by the Drug War. You might even term it a “racket” by those who stand in the power corridors of Washington, DC.
“Protect and Serve!” said Officer Howard Wooldridge. “The first day we pin the badge to our shirt, strap on a ‘six gun’ and leave the police station, we police officers catch the ‘bad guys’ and keep your communities safe. From that lofty ideal, the reality of enforcing “Modern Prohibition/War on Drugs” rips the concept of “protect and serve” to shreds.
“Since 1971, we became an unthinking machine of search, arrest and destroy! We created profound damage to individuals, families and communities. Forty years into the “Drug War”, tens of thousands of officers have been shot, killed and convicted of corruption. Two generations of young people have seen us as the enemy. Why? Because we are poking into their clothes, cars and rooms in the endless search for a pot baggie! We know that this Prohibition creates the majority of felony crime, is directly related to young teen dealers being shot everyday and it reduces our ability to catch the deadly DUI, rapists and other public safety threats.
“Nonetheless, our chiefs, sheriffs and union reps, whose part-time job is medical doctor, tell the public that ending Prohibition would create an America of zombies—as a Tsunami of citizens would shove a needle into their arms. As a profession, police became addicted to the excitement, money and job security generated by Prohibition.
“In September 1978, I pinned a badge on my shirt and took it off in November 1994. I grabbed a ringside seat in the transformation as a police officer. The first ten years proceeded as I imagined: cops and robbers, good guys catching bad guys. Many of us became serious about the deadly DUI and when arrests went up, fatal accidents went down. At the coffee shop citizens thanked us openly for our efforts.
“That scenario changed quickly about 1986. We spent two hours at the Michigan State Police Headquarters learning how we should aggressively ask any and all drivers we stopped to allow a search. “We would like your cooperation in the war on drugs to make America drug free. May I search your car?” We learned that if we only found money, we could seize the car, take the money and leave the driver on the side of the road. How much money? The amount was determined by the county prosecutor. Some prosecutors only require $300 in cash to seize the money and car. The hapless citizen must then go to court to prove the money was earned from the sweat of his/her labor. Often the court case took a year to come to trial. Thus began the process of ‘highway robbery’ committed by armed robbers also known as police officers.
“What followed was predictable. When citizens refused a search, we threatened them with bringing a drug dog which might take an hour. Where dogs were not available, we ordered them out of the car anyway. If the citizen later complained, we told the Chief that the citizen had given consent. If we found drugs, we lied on the police report and later would commit perjury in court. Since we were the “Good Guys” doing “Good Work”, society and our Creator would forgive us—even if we ignored the 4th Amendment and the truth. Our supervisors patted us on the back with an ‘Atta-boy’ when we seized money and cars. When others might arrest a DUI every shift, a thundering silence met them from the same supervisor. DUI arrests did not generate money for our budget. Respect for the profession plummeted.
“Soon, crack became popular throughout the country as a poor man’s cocaine. While the rich had their powder delivered to their home or office, average people drove to the city and bought it off the sidewalk. When government responded with the 100:1 crack to powder ratio for punishment, dealers hired tens of thousands of young teens who were not eligible for 20 year minimums. Thus began the process where thousands of young teens have been shot and killed and millions have joined gangs to sell crack and other drugs. As we handled crime scene after crime scene where 14 year olds were shot, we suffered mixed feelings. “One less dirt bag,” we said out loud. Privately we realized that by accident of birth, a young teen (not unlike our own child), made the poor choice to become a dealer. That boy who should still be alive and attending junior high, lay lifeless on the sidewalk.
“Despite our conflict, despite all the information and studies which showed that all drug busts were meaningless, we soldiered on. Surely our civic and political leader knew what they were doing. Despite all the crime, death and bloodshed generated by the drug trade, our country must be on the right path. We lived in America, home of the “Good Guys.”
“As we realized that our efforts had resulted in drugs becoming ever cheaper, ever stronger and even easier to buy, we doubled down. Playing by the rules was getting us nowhere near a ‘Drug-Free America’. We lied, planted evidence and committed perjury on search warrants and in court. Police misconduct due to Prohibition became so rampant that in 1984 the U.S. Department of Justice stopped keeping the stats on cops who were convicted of drug-trade related corruption. Official corruption became the tip of the iceberg. The massive corruption was not how many took money to look the other way, rather the tens of thousands of officers who committed perjury in court. “Yes your honor,” we said. “The defendant gave me permission to search the car.” No one will ever know how many times “The Thin Blue Line” has lied in court to win a drug charge conviction.
“As the years passed, society gave us gobs of money to seek out, arrest and incarcerate the millions of Willie Nelson’s, Rush Limbaugh’s and Michael Phelps of the country. We became addicted to the money. Crimes which were non-consensual like rape, DUI, child pornography, etc received ever less attention. By 2008, 400,000 rape kits had never been opened, some languishing in crime labs for years. Using computers to identify 623,000 computers which contained child pornography in 2008, our profession only went after and arrested 12,000. Arresting those who hurt our women and children takes a back seat to those who sell marijuana and other drugs. As a detective who arrested those truly evil persons, this aspect of Prohibition makes me scream the loudest.
“When will we repeal this Modern Prohibition? From the President on down, three quarters of the public admit that the current prohibition approach proves an ineffective failure. Today nearly every state contemplates closing prisons by letting out minor drug dealers or close a junior college. Since every Member of Congress has either smoked marijuana or know friends who have, they know that the sky would not fall in, if we legalized, regulated and taxed it. Privately they are ready. They just need to hear from you.
“During my entire career I enforced another, ill-advised law; namely 55 MPH on our superhighways. Born in the first oil crunch of 1974, it was kept to reduce accidents. It spawned massive disrespect for my profession, CB radios, convoys of vehicles protecting each other from ‘Smokie,’ and the ubiquitous radar detector. Finally about 1996 the country repealed the law. And the sun came up anyway. Let us find the courage to repeal this Modern Prohibition like we did in 1933. The sky will not fall.”
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.citizensopposingprohibition.org , Washington, DC. He speaks at colleges, political clubs, Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions Clubs across America. He engages citizens around the country to bring an end to the Drug War. Check out the web site and join. Book Wooldridge in your state! Wooldridge also presents at political conferences in Washington. Howard@citizensopposingprohibition.org
The mission of COP 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.”