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This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Cleveland jail guard gets caught trying to smuggle heroin to an accused rapist, a Border Patrol veteran heads to prison for trying to traffic cocaine, and more. Let's get to it:

In Cleveland, a Cuyahoga County jail guard was arrested last Wednesday on charges he was smuggling heroin in to an accused rapist. Corrections Officer Kamara Austin, 43, went down after investigators found heroin and pills in his car. He is charged with second-degree drug trafficking, drug possession, and possession of criminal tools. At last report, he was still behind bars on $250,000 bond.

In Casper, Wyoming, a Converse County detention officer was arrested last Thursday after a snitch told authorities he would be delivering oxycodone. Detention Officer Joe Martinez, 37, went down when he went to meet his buyer—the snitch—and was instead met by detectives, who found a pill bottle with 10 oxycodone tablets. He is charged with drug possession with intent to deliver.

In Tucson, Arizona, a former Border Patrol agent was sentenced last Friday to more than 13 years in federal prison for trying to drive what he thought was 110 pounds of cocaine from Tucson to Chicago for $50,000. The "cocaine" wasn't real cocaine, but a dummy substance placed there by an undercover law enforcement officer as part of a sting. Juan Pimentel, 48, was convicted of drug smuggling and accepting a bribe from drug traffickers.

Chronicle AM: Pot SWAT Raids Kill More People Than Pot Ever Did, Aussie Bigwigs Call for Drug Decrim, More... (3/21/17)

The New York Times reports on fatal SWAT drug raids, Australian former premiers and police chiefs call for drug decriminalization, medical marijuana keeps statehouses busy, and more. 

Medical marijuana is keeping state legislatures busy. (Creative Commons/Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Poll Shows Support for Plant Limits. A new Keating Research poll has support for limiting home marijuana grows to 12 plants at 57%, with only 36% opposed. The poll comes as lawmakers consider House Bill 1220, which originally imposed a 12-plant limit, but was amended to up the limit to 16 plants. That bill has already passed the House and is now before the Senate.

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas House Votes to Kill Bill Banning Edibles. The House voted 52-40 Monday to kill House Bill 1991, which would have banned the commercial production of medical marijuana edibles in the state. Bill sponsor Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R-Springdale) argued that patients could make their own and that medical marijuana is medicine, not candy, but her arguments failed to sway her peers.

Nevada Bill Would Let Medical Marijuana Patients Carry Guns. State Sen. Kevin Atkinson (D-Las Vegas) filed Senate Bill 351 Monday. That measure would allow medical marijuana users to possess a firearm and a concealed carry permit. Current state law requires sheriffs to deny such permits for medical marijuana users.

New Hampshire Senate Committee Approves Use of Medical Marijuana for Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. The Senate Health, Human Services, and Elderly Committee has approved a bill that would add Ehlers-Danlos syndrome to the state's list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. The measure now heads for a Senate floor vote. If it passes there, the House will take it up.

Utah 2018 Medical Marijuana Initiative Drive Gearing Up. Medical marijuana advocates are gearing up to try to put an initiative on the state's 2018 ballot. They said they would begin the process of signature gathering next month, and they cite promising polling. The state legislature has so far thwarted efforts to create a robust medical marijuana program.

Law Enforcement

Marijuana Raids Kill More People Than Pot Ever Did.  According to data compiled by the New York Times, since 2010, at least 20 SWAT raids involving suspected marijuana dealers have resulted in deaths, including those of four police officers. The toll for all drug SWAT raid deaths is, of course, higher, with 81 people killed, including 13 cops.

International

Australian Police Chiefs, Former Premiers Call for Drug Decriminalization. A group of former premiers, police commissioners, and legal advocates have called for an end to the criminalization of drug users. The call comes in the Australia 21 report, which was released Monday. The report, titled "Can Australia Respond to Drugs More Effectively and Safely," makes 13 recommendations for reducing drug-related harms, such as supervised drug use rooms and other harm reduction measures, but also called for eliminating penalties for possession and drug use. 

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

An Indiana cop gets nailed for pilfering pain patches, a Cincinnati police dispatcher gets popped with 200 pounds of pot, a New Jersey cop gets nailed for getting sexual favors from a woman in drug court, and more. Let's get to it:

In Kokomo, Indiana, a Kokomo police officer was arrested last Wednesday for helping a woman fill a prescription for fentanyl patches and then stealing some of them. Officer Heath Evans is charged with possession of a narcotic drug, theft, and obtaining a controlled substance by fraud.

In Rome, Georgia, a Rome/Floyd County police officer was arrested Monday as part of a marijuana trafficking bust. Ed Cox, 39, is charged with one count of trafficking marijuana; one count of violation of oath of office; one count of tampering with evidence; and one count of bribery. Cox went down after the Rome Police contacted the Georgia Bureau of Investigation upon receiving tips about corruption in the department.

In Cincinnati, Ohio, a Cincinnati police dispatcher was arrested Monday after DEA agents discovered 200 pounds of pot in her basement. Dispatcher Teneal Poole went down after a five-month DEA investigation led to a highway bust of a truck carrying 600 pounds of pot from Mexico, which in turn led to her residence. Poole is charged with possession of drugs and permitting drug abuse, while her live-in boyfriend faces pot trafficking charges.

In New York City, an NYPD officer was convicted last Thursday of lying about a drug arrest. Officer Jonathan Munoz, 33, arrested a man on March 12, 2014 for allegedly interfering with his search of a woman he suspected of buying marijuana. But surveillance video showed that Munoz' account was untrue, and that he had unlawfully searched the woman and unlawfully arrested the man. He was found guilty of all 19 counts in the indictment against him, including two counts each of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree and official misconduct.

In Knoxville, Tennessee, a former Knoxville police was sentenced last Friday to 12 years in prison for his role in a conspiracy to distribute prescription pain pills and other drugs in East and Middle Tennessee. Joshua Hurst, 39, had copped to conspiracy to possess with intent to deliver more than 200 grams of oxycodone, delivery of more than a half-gram of methamphetamine, possession of oxymorphone with intent to sell in a drug-free park zone, possession of oxycodone with intent to deliver in a drug-free daycare zone and three counts of official misconduct. Hurst was one of seven co-defendants to cut deals and get sentenced last Friday. Hurst went down when a confidential DEA informant linked him to the main players in the conspiracy, then put him under surveillance and watched him trade heroin, meth, and seized drivers' licenses for prescription opioids he used himself.

 In Somerville, New Jersey, a former Sussex County sheriff's officer was sentenced Monday to nine months in county jail for having a sexual relationship with a woman in drug court. William Lunger, 36, also tipped the woman to surprise weekend drug screening and stole testing kits for her to use. Lunger had been charged with second-degree official misconduct, which carries a mandatory minimum five-year prison term, but plea bargained down to a single count of third degree conspiracy to commit official misconduct. 

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A New Jersey cop gets nailed for stealing drug dog training cocaine, a California cop get caught pilfering weed from a domestic violence call, a Kentucky cop heads for prison for stealing $30,000 worth of drugs, guns, and cash, and more. Let's get to it:

In Tom's River, New Jersey, an Ocean County sheriff's lieutenant was arrested last Wednesday for stealing cocaine from the department's canine training unit. Lt. John Adams is accused of stealing the cocaine for his personal use over a two-year period. The cocaine was stored at the sheriff's office for use in the drug dog training program. Adams is charged with theft, cocaine possession, and official misconduct.

In Tucker, Georgia, a DeKalb County police officer was arrested Monday on charges he stole cash from an apartment during a drug investigation. Officer Ajamia Guyton was investigating a forced entry call that became a drug investigation when narcotics were discovered at the residence. Detectives left Guyton in charge of the scene while they went to obtain a drug search warrant, but found the money missing when they returned. Guyton is charged with theft by taking, tampering with evidence and violation of oath of office.

In San Jose, California, a San Jose police officer was arrested Monday for allegedly stealing marijuana while answering a domestic violence call. Officer Julio Morales, a 21-year veteran, was arrested on suspicion of petty theft and released. He had been on paid leave since February, after an internal investigation found he had stolen the weed.

In Lebanon, Ohio, a former state prison guard was sentenced last Friday to a year in prison for smuggling illegal drugs into the Lebanon Correctional Institution last August. Walter Richardson, 23, got caught with 100 suboxone strips stuffed in the finger of a rubber glove in his pocket when he came to work. He copped to illegal conveyance of drugs into a detention facility and possession of drugs.

In Boulder, Colorado, a sheriff's deputy was sentenced last Friday to 18 months' probation for plotting to smuggle chewing tobacco and marijuana edibles into the Boulder County Jail. Tyler Paul Mason, 33, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of official misconduct in exchange for prosecutors dropping two felony counts of conspiracy to introduce contraband. Mason went down after an inmate told staff another inmate had made arrangements with Mason to get the contraband. Investigators then had a woman acting as a confidential informant met with Mason and give him money for his services.

In Simpsonville, Kentucky, a former Simpsonville police officer was sentenced Monday to 12 years in prison for stealing $30,000 in cash, drugs, and handguns from department evidence lockers. Terry Putnam had pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including theft and official misconduct, in January.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Seattle cop gets his hand slapped for doing dope with his stripper girlfriend, a Mississippi deputy is in trouble for carrying a load of dope around in his patrol car, two Detroit narcs finally face justice, and more. Let's get to it:

In Jackson, Mississippi, a Hinds County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Thursday after investigators discovered a bunch of dope in his patrol car. Deputy Larry Taylor, 31, was charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. He's the brother of a Hinds County jail guard, Brodrick Taylor, who was recently busted for smuggling drugs into the jail. Deputy Taylor is now a former deputy, too.

In Detroit, two former Detroit narcotics officers were sentenced last Wednesday to years in prison for a pattern of ripping off some drug dealers, tipping off others, and forging search warrants. Former Lt. David Hansberry was sentenced to 12 years, while former Officer Bryan Watson got nine years. They were both convicted last summer of conspiracy, although the jury acquitted them of numerous other counts, including actual extortion. Federal prosecutors had sought 20 years for each man. They both remain free on bond.

In Blackfoot, Idaho, a former Blackfoot police officer was sentenced last Wednesday to 180 days in jail for stealing drugs and paraphernalia from a drug take-back box. Paul Hardwicke had copped to one count each of drug and paraphernalia possession. Hardwicke's attorney said he suffered depression and PTSD and was strung out on opiates.

In Seattle, a Seattle police officer was sentenced Monday to 30 days on a jail work crew after he was caught providing and doing drugs with a stripper girlfriend and illegally giving crime victim information to a local news anchor. Officer Robert Marlow pleaded guilty to drug possession and computer trespass charges.

Chronicle AM: Trump Vows to Win Drug War, Sessions Rejects Marijuana Legalization, More... (3/1/17)

The Trump administration's posture toward drug and marijuana reform is becoming evident, Philippines President Duterte is reenlisting the National Police in his drug war, the Colombian government and the FARC are working together on coca crop substitution, and more.

Trump wants more drug war. (Creative Commons/Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy

Attorney General Sessions Scoffs at Marijuana Legalization. "We have a responsibility to use our best judgment… and my view is we don't need to be legalizing marijuana," he said at the winter meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General. "I'm dubious about marijuana. I'm not sure we're going to be a better, healthier nation if we have marijuana sold at every corner grocery store." He also ridiculed the notion that using marijuana could be a cure for opioid abuse, calling it "a desperate attempt" to defend marijuana. But he did concede that "maybe science will prove me wrong."

California Bill to Address Pot-Impaired Driving Advances. A bill that calls on the state Highway Patrol to form a task force to develop methods for identifying drivers impaired by marijuana or prescription drugs and for an evaluation of technologies for measuring marijuana impairment has passed out of the Assembly Public Safety Committee. Assembly Bill 6 now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Drug Policy

Trump Vows to Win War on Drugs; Doesn't Mention Marijuana. In his inaugural address to Congress Tuesday night, President Trump echoed the ghosts of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan -- not to mention Miguel Cervantes -- as he vowed to defeat drugs. If there is a silver lining, his ire appears directed at heroin and other hard drugs. The word "marijuana" did not appear once in his speech. "Our terrible drug epidemic will slow down and ultimately, stop," he promised as part of a litany of MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN accomplishments to come ("Dying industries will come roaring back to life. Heroic veterans will get the care they so desperately need… "). And, having forgotten -- or more likely, never learned -- the lessons of the past half century of American drug prohibition, he's going to defeat drugs the old-fashioned way: with more war on drugs. "To protect our citizens, I have directed the Department of Justice to form a Task Force on Reducing Violent Crime," Trump said. "I have further ordered the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice, along with the Department of State and the Director of National Intelligence, to coordinate an aggressive strategy to dismantle the criminal cartels that have spread across our Nation."

International

Tens of Thousands of Colombia Families to Quit Coca Farming. Some 55,000 families in territories controlled by the FARC will participate in a voluntary crop substitution program sponsored by the government, the presidency said Tuesday. The move will see nearly 100,000 acres of coca crops voluntarily eradicated under FARC supervision. The move to coca substitution is part of the peace agreement signed by President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leaders last November.

Philippines President Brings Police Back to Wage More Drug War. President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday he would recall some police to fight the drug war. He had suspended the entire Philippine National Police from all operations in the bloody crackdown last month after a rogue squad of drug officers kidnapped and killed a South Korean businessman at PNP headquarters, but said he needed more manpower to sustain the crackdown, which has left more than 7,700 dead since he took office last year. "So, I need more men. I have to call back the police again to do the job most of the time on drugs, not everyone," he told reporters.

Trump Vows to Win War on Drugs, But Doesn't Mention Marijuana [FEATURE]

In his inaugural address to Congress Tuesday night, President Trump echoed the ghosts of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan -- not to mention summoning the specter of Miguel Cervantes -- as he vowed to defeat drugs.

If there is a silver lining, his ire appears directed at heroin and other hard drugs. The word "marijuana" did not appear once in his speech.

"Our terrible drug epidemic will slow down and ultimately, stop," he promised as part of a litany of MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN accomplishments to come. ("Dying industries will come roaring back to life. Heroic veterans will get the care they so desperately need…")

And, having forgotten -- or more likely, never learned -- the lessons of the past half century of American drug prohibition, he's going to defeat drugs the old-fashioned way: with more war on drugs.

"To protect our citizens, I have directed the Department of Justice to form a Task Force on Reducing Violent Crime," Trump said. "I have further ordered the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice, along with the Department of State and the Director of National Intelligence, to coordinate an aggressive strategy to dismantle the criminal cartels that have spread across our Nation."

But talk is cheap. Drug law enforcement costs money. The DEA and other federal agencies are already waging a multi-billion dollar a year war on drugs; if Trump's budget proposals match his rhetoric, he will have to be prepared to spend billions more. Just when he wants to cut just about all federal spending but defense, too.

Trump can ratchet up the drug war in some ways without relying on congressional appropriations through his control of the executive branch. For instance, his Justice Department could direct federal prosecutors to seek mandatory minimum prison sentences in most or all drug cases, a practice eschewed by the Obama Justice Department. That, too, has budgetary consequences, but until some time down the road.

Trump did at least pay lip service to addressing drug use as a public health issue, saying he would "expand treatment for those who have become so badly addicted," but that doesn't gibe with his call to repeal the Affordable Care Act. If Obamacare is repealed, nearly three million Americans with addiction disorders with lose access to some or all of their health coverage, including nearly a quarter million receiving opioid addiction treatment.

Trump's Tuesday night crime and drug talk was interwoven with talk about the border, comingling immigration, drugs, and his border wall in a hot mess of overheated, but politically useful, rhetoric.

"We've defended the borders of other nations, while leaving our own borders wide open, for anyone to cross -- and for drugs to pour in at a now unprecedented rate," he said, ignoring the quadrupling in size of the Border Patrol in the past 20 years and the billions pumped into border security since 2001. "We will stop the drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth."

Trump also said that he was already making America safer with his immigration enforcement actions.

"As we speak, we are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our citizens. Bad ones are going out as I speak tonight and as I have promised," he said.

It's too early to see who is actually being deported in the opening days of the Trump administration, but if the past is any indicator, it's not "gang members, drug dealers, and criminals," but, in rank order, people whose most serious crime was crossing the border without papers, alcohol-impaired drivers, other traffic violators, and pot smokers. Those were the four leading charges for criminal immigration deportations in one recent year, according to Secure Communities and ICE Deportations: A Failed Program?

Trump's drug war rhetoric is triumphalist and militaristic, but so far it's largely just talk. The proof will be in budget proposals and Justice Department memoranda, but in terms of progressive drug policy, he's striking a very ominous tone. This does not bode well.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A massive East Coast bust rolls up more than a dozen cops, deputies, and prison guards in North Carolina and Virginia, a Customs agent gets caught red-handed helping move a suitcase full of cocaine through JFK, and more. Let's get to it:

In Sumter, South Carolina, a state prison guard was arrested last Tuesday for allegedly trying to smuggle marijuana and liquor into one of the state's maximum security prisons. Shatara Clinise Wilson went down when supervisors searched her belongings as she arrived at work. She is charged with misconduct in office, possession with intent to distribute marijuana and introducing contraband into a prison.

In New York City, a US Customs agent was arrested last Wednesday on charges he helped a couple sneak a suitcase full of cocaine through a terminal at JFK International Airport. Officer Fernando Marte went down after meeting the couple like old friends, escorting them to the baggage area, and getting the woman through a secondary checkpoint. But his colleagues became suspicious and called her back. When she opened the suitcase, agents found 45 bricks of cocaine wrapped in duct tape. It's not clear what the exact charges are.

In Raleigh, North Carolina, more than a dozen law enforcement officers were arrested last Wednesday in a major federal sting targeting cocaine and heroin operations. Among those arrested are five current members of the Northampton County Sheriff's Office, three North Carolina prison guards, and two Virginia prison guards. They all face heroin and/or cocaine trafficking charges up and down the I-95 corridor.

In Staunton, Virginia, a former state prison guard was arrested last Thursday after being caught with marijuana, heroin, and cocaine. Talil Perkins, 30, has admitted he was going to smuggle the drugs to inmates at the Augusta Correctional Center. He was arrested on three felony counts of possession of a controlled substance.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A dozen TSA agents get popped in a massive, long-term cocaine smuggling scheme, a former DEA Special Agent-in-Charge gets his hand slapped for lying about owning a strip club, and more. Let's get to it:

In San Juan, Puerto Rico, a dozen current and former TSA employees were arrested Monday for participating in a scheme to smuggle a whopping 20 tons of cocaine through airport security there over a period of nearly two decades. Drug mules would allegedly bring the cocaine to the airport, then hand it off to baggage handlers who were part of the conspiracy, who then handed it off to TSA agents who were also part of the conspiracy to get it past X-ray machines. The names of the TSA agent conspirators are José Cruz-López, Luis Vázquez-Acevedo, Keila Carrasquillo, Carlos Rafael Adorno-Hiraldo, Antonio Vargas-Saavedra, Javier Ortiz, Tomas Dominguez-Rohena, Edwin Francisco Castro, Luis Vázquez-Acevedo, Ferdinand López, Miguel Ángel Pérez-Rodríguez and Daniel Cruz-Echevarría.

In Denver, a Denver police officer pleaded guilty last Friday to stealing cash from a crime scene in an incident involving drugs. Officer Julian Archuleta, 48, pleaded guilty to first-degree official misconduct and theft, then immediately resigned. Archuleta went down after his own body camera snitched him out. The camera showed Archuleta inspecting the interior of a vehicle that had fled from police and crashed, finding cash, picking up several $100 bills, then moving papers around to try to hide the remaining money. The $100 bills were never entered into evidence.

In New York City, a former DEA Special Agent-in-Charge was sentenced last Wednesday to a year's probation for lying about working at an "adult entertainment establishment." Former agent David Polos was convicted of lying on national security form about his connection with the strip club during a background check specifically designed to determine his suitability as a federal law enforcement agent with access to classified information. Polos also lied about his close relationship with a foreign national who danced at the club. He was convicted of making false statements on the security form.

Trump Goes Full Nixon on Law-and-Order, Vows 'Ruthless' War on Drugs and Crime [FEATURE]

This article was produced in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

In a sharp break with the Obama administration, which distanced itself from harsh anti-drug rhetoric and emphasized treatment for drug users over punishment, President Trump last week reverted to tough drug war oratory and backed it up with a series of executive orders he said were "designed to restore safety in America."

"We're going to stop the drugs from pouring in," Trump told law enforcement professionals of the Major Cities Chiefs Association last Wednesday. "We're going to stop those drugs from poisoning our youth, from poisoning our people. We're going to be ruthless in that fight. We have no choice. And we're going to take that fight to the drug cartels and work to liberate our communities from their terrible grip of violence."

Trump also lambasted the Obama administration for one of its signature achievements in criminal justice reform, opening the prison doors for more than 1,700 drug war prisoners who had already served sentences longer than they would have under current, revised sentencing guidelines. Obama freed "record numbers of drug traffickers, many of them kingpins," Trump complained.

And in a sign of a return to the dark days of drug war over-sentencing, he called for harsher mandatory minimum prison sentences for "the most serious" drug offenders, as well as aggressive prosecutions of drug traffickers and cracking down on "shipping loopholes" he claimed allowed drugs to be sent to the US from other countries.

In a New Hampshire campaign speech during the campaign, Trump called for more treatment for drug users and more access to overdose reversal drugs, but there was no sign of that side of the drug policy equation in Wednesday's speech.

Last Thursday, Trump backed up his tough talk with action as, at the Oval Office swearing in of Attorney General Jeff Session, he rolled out three executive orders he said were "designed to restore safety in America," but which appear to signal an increasingly authoritarian response to crime, drugs, and discontent with policing practices.

The first, which Trump said would "reduce crime and restore public safety," orders Sessions to create a new Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Policy, which will come up with "strategies to reduce crime, including, in particular, illegal immigration, drug trafficking and violent crime," propose legislation to implement them, and submit a report to the president within a year.

The second, regarding "transnational criminal organizations and preventing drug trafficking," directs various federal law enforcement agencies to "increase intelligence sharing" and orders an already existing interagency working group to submit a report to Trump within four months describing progress made in combating the cartels, "along with any recommended actions for dismantling them."

"I'm directing Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security to undertake all necessary and lawful action to break the back of the criminal cartels that have spread across our nation and are destroying the blood of our youth and other people," Trump said Thursday.

The third directs the Justice Department to use federal law to prosecute people who commit crimes against police officers, even though they already face universally severe penalties under existing state laws.

Trump was breathing law-and-order brimstone last week. (Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons)
"It's a shame what's been happening to our great, truly great law enforcement officers," Trump said at the signing ceremony. "That's going to stop as of today."

The tough talk and the executive orders provoked immediate alarm and pushback from human and civil rights advocates, drug reformers, the Mexican government, and even the law enforcement community. The apparent turn back toward a more law-and-order approach to drugs also runs against the tide of public health and public policy opinion that the war on drugs has been a failure.

In a report released last Friday, dozens of senior law enforcement officials warned Trump against a tough crackdown on crime and urged him to instead continue the Obama administration's efforts to reform the criminal justice system.

The report was coauthored for Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration by former Dallas Police Chief David Brown, who won wide praise for his response after a gun man killed five of his officers last year.

"Decades of experience have convinced us of a sobering reality: Today's crime policies, which too often rely only on jail and prison, are simply ineffective in preserving public safety," the report said.

The president's crime plan would encourage police to focus on general lawbreaking rather than violent crime, the report said. The Justice Department already spends more than $5 billion a year to support local police, much of it spent on "antiquated law enforcement tools, such as dragnet enforcement of lower-level offenses" and Trump's plan would "repeat this mistake," the officials wrote. "We cannot fund all crime fighting tactics."

Drug reformers also sounded the alarm.

"This rhetoric is dangerous, disturbing, and dishonest," said Bill Piper, senior director for national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "We have had a war on drugs. It has failed. Tough talk may look good before the cameras, but history has taught us that cracking down on drugs and building walls will not stop the supply or use of drugs. It mostly causes the death and destruction of innocent lives. Trump must tone down his outrageous rhetoric and threats, and instead reach out to leadership from both parties to enact a humane and sensible health-based approach to drug policies that both reduce overdose and our country's mass incarceration crisis."

Indeed, most public health experts argue that the prohibitionist approach to drugs has been a failure. They point to research such as a 2013 study in the British Medical Journal that found that despite billions spent on drug prohibition since 1990, drug prices have only decreased and purity increased, making getting high easier and more affordable than ever before.

"These findings suggest that expanding efforts at controlling the global illegal drug market through law enforcement are failing," the authors conclude.

Public health analysts also point to research showing that between 1991 and 2001, even when the drug war was in full effect, the rate of illicit drug use among teens rose sharply, while their cigarette smoking rate fell off a bit and their alcohol use dropped sharply. The substances that are legal for adult use were less likely to see increases than ones that are prohibited, the analysts point out.

Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Luis Videgaray also chimed in to note that there wouldn't be any Mexican drug cartels without American demand for drugs and to remind Washington that it's not just what's being exported from Mexico that is a problem, but what's being imported, too.

"For years, from the Mexican perspective, people say, 'OK, the problem with drugs -- that it's creating so much violence, so many deaths of young people in Mexico -- is because there's demand for drugs in the US,''" Videgaray said. "We happen to be neighbors to the largest market for drugs. From the American perspective, it's just the other way around," he said, adding that both countries need to get past "the blame game."

And if the US is serious about helping Mexico disrupt the cartels "business model," it needs to stop the southbound traffic in cash and guns.

"We need to stop illegal weapons flowing from the U.S. into Mexico," Videgaray said. "We always think about illegal stuff moving through the border south to north, but people forget that most guns -- and we're not talking small guns, we're talking heavy weapons -- they get to the cartels and create literally small armies out of the cartels."

Will progress on reducing mass incarceration come to a halt? (nadcp.org)
Human Rights Watch reacted to a comment from Attorney General Sessions at his swearing in ceremony that crime is a "dangerous permanent trend that places the lives of American people at risk," by noting that crime is down dramatically by all measures over the past 20 years despite a slight increase in violent crimes between 2014 and 2015. "There is no 'dangerous permanent trend' in violent or non-violent crime," it pointed out.

And Amnesty International swiftly reacted to the executive order calling for new federal penalties for crimes against police.

"Law enforcement officers face unique hardships and challenges due to the nature of their work," said Amnesty's Noor Mir. "Authorities are already able to vigorously prosecute crimes against law enforcement officers, and there is no history to suggest that officers are not fully protected by current laws. This order will not protect anyone, and instead it creates additional penalties that could cause people to be significantly over-prosecuted for offenses including resisting arrest.

There is a better way, said Mir, but that would require going in a radically different direction than where the Trump administration is headed.

"This order does nothing to address real and serious problems in the US criminal justice system," he said. "Relationships between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve could instead be improved by investing in reform of the criminal justice system and better training for officers. Police already have laws protecting them, but there is no federal standard for the prosecution of officers who unlawfully kill civilians. Implementing a standard for lethal force in line with international standards will protect both police and civilians."

The Trump administration has outlined an approach to drugs and criminal justice policy with dark Nixonian and Reaganite underpinnings, promising more, more, more heavy-handed policing, more swelling prison populations, and more -- not less -- distrust and suspicion between police and the communities they are supposed to serve and protect.

And, in typical Trump fashion, his brash, draconian approach to the complex social problems around crime and drugs is creating a rapid backlash. Whether the rising opposition to Trump can rein in his authoritarian impulses and regressive policy approaches to the issue remains to be seen, but a battle to stop the slide backward is brewing.

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