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This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Missing drug money, meth-dealing sheriffs, cocaine-snorting crooked cops, cops turned robbers -- it's just another week on the corrupt cops beat. Let's get to it:

prohibition corrupts (image via Wikimedia)
In Paris, Tennessee, the director of the 24th Judicial District Drug Task Force was suspended March 30 pending an investigation into missing drug money. Steven Lee, the director of the drug task force, was suspended with pay and a secretary within the task force fired, although the Henry County district attorney didn't say exactly why. He did say he called in the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation in early 2010 after $4,200 went missing from a drug seizure and the drug task force had no record of the money ever being seized. He said the investigation is continuing.

In Poughkeepsie, New York, a retired Poughkeepsie police officer was arrested March 31 for allegedly tipping off drug dealers in exchange for cocaine. Retired officer David Palazzolo, 47, is accused of using departmental computers to learn the identities and locations of undercover narcotics officers and turning that information over to admitted cocaine in return for some of their product.

In Van Buren, Missouri, the Carter County sheriff was arrested Saturday on methamphetamine distribution charges. Sheriff Tommy Adams, 31, went down after an investigation by the Van Buren Police, the FBI, the Missouri Division of Fire Safety, and the Missouri Highway Patrol. Adams' home burned down in January 2010, and authorities said at the time nothing suspicious was found, but they did not say if the fire prompted the meth investigation. An unnamed deputy sheriff was also arrested Saturday, but has not been charged. At last report, Adams was in jail trying to raise a $250,000 cash-only bond.

In Cincinnati, a Cincinnati police officer was arrested Tuesday on charges of obstructing justice and unauthorized use of a computer.  Officer Alvin Triggs was arrested by officers from the Regional Enforcement Narcotics Unit for an offense that took place January 28. The two counts are both felonies and carry maximum sentences of 2 ½ years each.

In Philadelphia, a former Philadelphia police officer pleaded guilty Tuesday to helping accused drug dealers rob a man they thought was a drug courier. Christopher Luciano, 23, pleaded guilty to robbery, conspiracy, kidnapping, official oppression, and possession of a drug with intent to deliver. Luciano and a fellow 25th District officer, Sean Alivera, 31, were arrested October 4. Alivera was scheduled to plead guilty on Wednesday. The pair went down after agents from the state Bureau of Narcotics Investigation heard from an informant that a Philadelphia drug dealer was bragging that Philadelphia police had helped him set up and rob drug couriers. Agents then set up a sting, and the pair bit. They are now looking at at least five years in prison and as many as 67. No sentencing dates have been set yet.

Drug Test Protestors Send Urine Sample to Florida Governor

A new political action group formed to protest Florida Gov. Rick Scott's (R) new drug testing policy for state employees is sending a jar full of urine to Tallahassee to save state officials the bother of traveling south to the Florida Keys.

There's plenty more where this came from, governor. (Image via Wikimedia)
Last month, Scott signed an executive order mandating random drug testing of state employees. The state legislature is also considering a bill that would require drug testing for welfare and food stamp recipients.

The newly formed Committee for the Positive Insistence on a Sane Society (PISS) said it was sending the urine sample to Scott to peacefully protest against his drug testing policy. It accused Scott of wasting tax dollars on unjustifiable intrusions into the privacy of state workers.

"In one breath our CEO professes to be focusing on cutting wasteful government spending and laying off tens of thousands of state employees, while at the same time he announces a program to drug test state employees without any legitimate basis for such an invasion of privacy," wrote attorney Robert Clinton in a PISS press release.

The sample will be "kept under lock and seal" until it can be transported to Tallahassee. "In this way, the committee will save the Florida taxpayers from the expense of paying for individual drug testing in Key West," according to the press release.

Florida Gov. Scott is not, of course, the only American politician calling for drug testing of various segments of the population. Bills calling for drug testing of welfare or unemployment recipients are active in a number of states this year. Perhaps other activists will emulate the example of PISS.

FL
United States

Maine Marijuana Decriminalization Bills Die

A pair of bills that would have decriminalized the possession of up to five ounces of marijuana or six pot plants died last week when the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted unanimously to kill them. Maine has already decriminalized the possession of up to 2.5 ounces.

No growing your own, you Mainers! (Image courtesy of the author)
The bills, LD 750 (plants) and LD 754 (ounces), were introduced by Rep. Ben Chipman (I-Portland). Passing them would be a matter of basic justice, he told the committee during a hearing last month.

"It is my fundamental belief that people who use marijuana for personal use on a recreational basis are not criminals," Chipman said.

But opponents, led by the Maine Prosecutors Association, said that Maine already had a progressive marijuana law. And the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency warned that the bill decriminalizing up to six plants would allow people to grow enough pot to impact street sales without threat of criminal charges.

Augusta, ME
United States

Marijuana Legalization Bill Dies in Washington State

A bill that would have legalized marijuana in Washington state has died. It failed to move out of committee by Friday, a legislative deadline for action.

Will voters take matters into their own hands now? (Image via Wikimedia)
The bill, House Bill 1550, sponsored by Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson (D-Seattle), would have legalized the possession and sale of marijuana, with sales regulated by the state Liquor Control Board. The bill would have imposed a 15% per gram tax on marijuana sales, which supporters said would bring hundreds of millions of dollars into state coffers in coming years.

The bill had the support of the entire Seattle legislative delegation, as well as the Seattle Times editorial board. But that wasn't enough to move it out of committee.

The legislature's failure to act clears the way for an effort to take the issue directly to the voters. Sensible Washington is already gathering signatures for a legalization initiative to go before the voters in November.

They need 241,000 valid signatures by July 8, a target they missed by some 50,000 signatures last year after failing to win the support of some key players in Evergreen State pot politics.

Olympia, WA
United States

New Zealand to Regulate Rather Than Prohibit Synthetic Marijuana

The government of New Zealand plans to regulate and restrict access to legal synthetic cannabinoids, government spokesmen said last week. Under the plan, synthetic cannabinoids could not be sold to people under 18, and they would face regulation of their packaging, marketing, and sales.

New Zealand takes a reasoned approach to fake pot. (Image via Wikimedia)
The government is following the advice of the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs, which reviews controlled drugs and other psychoactive substances and recommends how such substances should be classified. The committee found no basis for banning fake pot, but said it was unacceptable for the products to be available without regulation.

Products containing synthetic cannabinoids have appeared in markets worldwide in recent years, typically sold as "incense" under brand names including Spice and K2. A number of European governments have responded by banning the substances, as has the US DEA, which imposed an emergency ban earlier this year.

Americans states have responded similarly, with more than a dozen of them imposing bans before the DEA acted, and moves are afoot in other state legislatures this year to enact more bans. California, however, responded similarly to what is proposed in New Zealand, banning it only for minors.

Under the New Zealand proposal, in addition to the ban on minors, sales would be banned in places where minors gather and there would be restrictions on advertising. Fake pot products would have to be sold in child-resistant containers and would have to be labeled with the synthetic cannabinoids they contain.

Moving synthetic cannabinoids from an unregulated substance to a restricted substance under the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act of 2005 will require parliamentary approval.

Auckland
New Zealand

Delaware Senate Passes Medical Marijuana Bill

A bill that would make Delaware the next state to legalize medical marijuana passed the Senate on a convincing 18-3 vote last Thursday. The measure now goes to the House.

Medical marijuana is moving at the state capitol in Dover (Image via Wikimedia.org)
The bill, Senate Bill 17, would allow qualified patients to obtain marijuana from state-licensed and -regulated compassion centers, which would grow it for them. Patients would not be able to grow their own, but would be allowed to purchase three ounces every two weeks and possess up to six ounces at a time. The legislation proposes at least one compassion center in each of the state's three counties within a year of enactment, but does not cap the number of centers.

The bill was approved after it was amended to lower the minimum age for qualifying patients from 21 to 18. Other states with medical marijuana laws allow patients of any age to use medical marijuana.

Proponents of the bill, which is based on model legislation prepared by the Marijuana Policy Project, pointed to studies suggesting that marijuana can alleviate pain, nausea, and other symptoms. Conditions that are covered include multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, glaucoma, and Lou Gehrig's disease.

"It's really a compassion bill," said chief sponsor Sen. Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington) during debate on the bill.

"I do believe we have an opportunity to alleviate pain and suffering in patients with certain medical conditions," said Sen. Michael Katz (D-Centreville), a physician.

The three "no" votes on the bill all came from Republicans, such as Sen. Colin Bonini of Dover, who said he thought the measure sent the wrong message. "We're saying marijuana is medicine, it's okay, and how many kids will internalize that message and start on the path to drug abuse?" asked Bonini.

Bonini also attempted to use the involvement of the Marijuana Policy Project as a club against passage of the measure. The group's stated goal is marijuana legalization, he said. "If you don't think this is step one toward legalization... I say you're sorely mistaken," he told fellow lawmakers.

But such rhetoric failed to sway his Democratic colleagues and most of his Republican colleagues. If the House follows the Senate's lead, Delaware could soon be the 16th medical marijuana state.

Dover, DE
United States

Illinois House Kills Hemp Bill

A bill that would have allowed Illinois farmers to get permits to grow hemp was stopped dead in a House vote last Thursday. The bill, House Bill 1383, was defeated 28-83.

Industrial hemp in France produces oils and fiber. (Image via Wikimedia.org)
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago), who emphasized hemp's environmental advantages and broad range of potential uses. "This is part of the new green movement across the nation," Dunkin said. "This will put Illinois ahead of most states."

The measure also had the support of the Illinois Farm Bureau. "There's a potential it [industrial hemp] could be a viable specialty crop," said bureau director of state legislation Kevin Semlow. "It was grown in the state up until the '40s."

Although marijuana and hemp were criminalized federally in the 1930s, farmers were encouraged to grow hemp by the federal government during World War II, when other sources of fiber were in short supply. But after the "Hemp for Victory" interregnum, hemp prohibition returned.

While hemp and hemp products may now be imported into the US, it remains illegal for farmers to grow the low-THC cannabis cultivar. Illinois imports $30 million worth of hemp a year, Dunkin said.

Opponents cited the federal government's classification of hemp as a controlled substance. A state law allowing for hemp production would put the state in conflict with the federal law, they argued.

"I would suggest a resolution asking the federal government to move it from Schedule One to Schedule Two so we could do more things, make the kind of distinctions between the plants (hemp and cannabis)," said Rep. Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago).

Downstate Republicans cited law enforcement opposition to the measure. "I had a call from [Sangamon County] Sheriff Williamson, and he asked me not to support it," said Rep. Rich Brauer (R-Petersburg).

Sangamon County Chief Deputy Jack Campbell told The State Register-Journal that legalized hemp production would make it harder to find illicit marijuana. "Like with medical marijuana, there will probably be abuse with it, and it would probably be a nightmare to control," Campbell said.

Despite the repeated insistence by US law enforcement spokespersons that hemp production would provide cover for illicit marijuana production (and their implicit acknowledgement that they are unable to tell the difference), that has not proven to be the case in Canada and Western Europe, which have legalized hemp production without any problems of that nature.

According to the industry group Vote Hemp, nine states have passed legislation removing barriers to hemp cultivation and eight more have passed resolutions supporting legalized hemp production.

Springfield, IL
United States

Montana Senate Votes for Medical Marijuana Repeal Bill

The Montana Senate voted 29-21 in favor of a bill, House Bill 161, repealing the state's voter-approved medical marijuana law last Thursday. It needs one more procedural vote to clear the chamber. The measure has already passed the House.

medical marijuana bags (courtesy Daniel Argo via Wikimedia)
Thursday's repeal vote came after increasingly fractious wrangling among legislators over efforts to regulate -- not repeal -- medical marijuana in Montana blew up last Wednesday. Senate Majority Leader Jeff Essmann (R-Billings) had crafted a bill to regulate the industry, Senate Bill 423, and that bill sailed through the Senate on a 37-13 vote. But the Senate twice failed to muster the two-thirds majority needed to suspend the rules to allow the bill to be voted on twice in one day in order to meet a legislative deadline.

That left an opening for Senate repeal advocates. After the first vote to suspend the rules on SB 423 failed, Sen. John Brendan (R-Scobey) blew the repeal bill out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it had previously been stalled on a tie vote after passing the House.

If the bill passes on the final procedural vote, it would then go to the desk of Gov. Bryan Schweitzer (D). If he were to sign the bill, that would mark the first time any medical marijuana state has turned back the clock.

But Schweitzer's signature is by no means a done deal. In previous comments on the subject, Schweitzer said he wanted to see the state's law reformed, not repealed.

Helena, MT
United States

Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann, Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed more than 36,000 people, including more than 15,000 last year. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest or killing of dozens of high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

the fruits of drug prohibition in Mexico (Image via Wikimedia)
Wednesday, March 23

In the Monterrey suburb of San Nicolas de los Garza, Mexican marines arrested seven municipal police officers for their suspected ties to organized crime groups in the city. Local police in San Nicolas de los Garza and the neighboring suburb of Santa Catarina (where one of the officers was arrested) are thought by many local residents to be thoroughly compromised and infiltrated by drug cartels.

Thursday, March 24

In Tamaulipas, 13 gunmen were killed during a fire fight with an army patrol. The clash occurred after the patrol came under fire from a group of armed men on a highway between Valle Hermoso and Reynosa. One suspect was captured and vehicles and weapons were seized. It is unclear to which cartel the gunmen belong, although it is very likely they were Zetas.

In Mexico City, Mexico’s main television networks and news organizations agreed to put tighter controls on the often graphic images of victims of Mexico's drug war.

Friday, March 25

In Geneva, the International Displacement Monitoring Centre released a report which suggests that as many as 230,000 people have been displaced by drug-related violence in Mexico. About half of the displaced fled to the United States. Most of the internally displaced come from the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango and Veracruz.

In Monterrey, the body of the host of a TV shot for children was found in an abandoned Mercedes-Benz after having been kidnapped and executed by masked gunmen. The body of Jose Luis Cerda, "La Gata," was left with a note accusing him of supporting the Zetas. Eight police officers have been suspended after ordering journalists (who were broadcasting live) away from the scene upon receiving reports that armed men were on their way to retrieve the body.

Saturday, March 26

In Acapulco, five men – including four confirmed police officers - were killed and dismembered. A note, allegedly signed by members of the Sinaloa Cartel, was left alongside the bodies. The note accused the member of being supporters of CIDA, the Independent Cartel of Acapulco. The incident took place within hours of President Calderon inaugurating the 36th edition of the tourist marketplace at Acapulco’s international center.

On the Nuevo Laredo-Monterrey highway, a tractor-trailer exploded during a gun battle between gunmen and soldiers who were attempting to search the trailer. Three gunmen were killed in the incident. After the flames were extinguished, soldiers found a massive cache of weapons, including an RPG launcher, 16 40 mm. grenades, .50 caliber rounds, 31 rifles, 9 handguns and a fragmentation grenade. Cash was also found, in addition to an unspecified quantity of cocaine and meth.

Sunday, March 27

On the highway between Nuevo Laredo and Monterrey, motorists alerted police to the presence of seven dead men which had been shot execution-style and left by the highway. It is unclear who they are or why they were killed. The bodies were found near to Saturday's incident in which three gunmen were killed during an encounter with the army on the highway.

In Nuevo Laredo, four gunmen were killed during a fire fight with soldiers who came under fire while on patrol.

In Veracruz, five people were killed and at least a dozen were injured during a 90-minute fire fight between suspected Zetas and the army and a subsequent stampede of people outside a local bar. The incident began when soldiers began chasing a convoy of luxury SUVs which were protecting a heavily-armed, armored Hummer, thought to belong to a high-ranking Zeta commander. Up to 80 cartel gunmen were reported seen at the bar, a known hangout for traffickers. Details are still sketchy, but it appears that at least four soldiers were also killed in the incident. At one point, cartel reinforcements arrived in a successful effort to facilitate the escape of the high-ranking Zeta in the Hummer, who remains unidentified.

Monday, March 28

In Cuernavaca, police discovered seven bodies inside an abandoned car in an exclusive gated community, four of them stuffed in the trunk. One of the dead was a woman.

In Apatzingan, Michoacan, two men were executed. A sign left with the bodies claimed the were killed by the Knights Templar, which is thought to be a successor or offshoot organization to the weakened Familia Michoacana.

[Editor's Note: We typically rely on El Universal to supply a weekly body count. They didn't provide one this week, so this week's figure is based only on our own research and may be revised upward.]

Total Body Count for the Week: 106         

Total Body Count for the Year: 1,767

Total Body Count for 2010: 15,273

Total Body Count for 2009: (approx.) 9,600

Total Body Count for 2008 (approx.): 5,400

Total Body Count for 2007 (approx): 4,300

Total Body Count for Calderon's drug war through 2010: 34,849

Total Body Count for Calderon's drug war to date: 36,616

Mexico

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

It was a relatively quiet week on the crooked cop front -- not including officers who've gone astray but haven't been caught -- but we've still got us a trio of law enforcement miscreants. Let's get to it:

Prohibition's filthy lucre is too much for some to resist (Image via Wikimedia)
In Modesto, California, a Modesto police officer was arrested Monday after an internal investigation found he had seized drugs and failed to turn them in as evidence. Officer Anthony Trock, a four-year veteran of the department, is charged with possession of a controlled substance, furnishing illegal drugs, and embezzlement. Trock went down after a citizen complained and Internal Affairs investigated. The investigation turned up several instances where Trock seized drugs from people while on duty, but did not turn them in. In one incident, Trock gave marijuana he seized to another person. He is on administrative leave.

In Decatur, Alabama, a Morgan County jail guard was arrested March 22 on charges he was selling drugs at the jail. Guard Marquez Laroy Goodwin, 22, sold marijuana to undercover agents, and when he was later pulled over in a traffic stop, was found in possession of a handgun and marked money from the buy. He is charged with unlawful distribution of a controlled substance. The sheriff says he will be fired, and that other guards could be involved. Stay tuned.

In Montello, Wisconsin, a former Marquette County Sheriff's deputy was sentenced March 23 to six months in jail for stealing drugs from an evidence room. Former deputy Daniel Card, 34, had pleaded guilty in January to misdemeanor charges of theft and entry into a locked room without permission. He had been found guilty in March 2009 of felony drug possession for taking drugs from the evidence room in April and May 2007. Investigators also found drugs missing from cases in 1996, 1997, and 2006. Card must also undergo a drug and alcohol assessment and possible treatment.

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