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Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A pair of cops turned thugs in St. Louis are jeopardizing a pile of drug convictions, a cop turned thug in Dallas will stay behind bars until trial, a Customs and Border Patrol officer heads to prison, and a Massachusetts town still can't find pot that went missing from its police department half a decade ago -- but it's trying. Let's get to it:

In Los Angeles, a former Customs and Border Patrol officer was sentenced last Friday to seven years in federal prison for conspiring to smuggle marijuana and illegal immigrants across the border. Former officer Luis Francisco Alarid, 32, also forfeited $175,000 in bribes he had received for his efforts. He pleaded guilty in November to conspiring to smuggle more than 100 kilograms of marijuana and bribery. Court documents reveal that Alarid allowed several vehicles containing contraband to cross the border unmolested during his seven-month tenure at the Otay Mesa border crossing, including a minivan loaded with 260 pounds of pot and four illegal immigrants. He went down in May, when the Border Corruption Task Force caught him trying to admit vehicles containing undocumented immigrants and 23 pounds of pot.

In Dallas, a former Dallas County sheriff's deputy will remain behind bars pending trial for allegedly stealing cocaine from a man he thought was a South Texas drug trafficker, but who was really an undercover officer. The judge in the case made the bail decision February 19 after watching a video of former deputy Standric Choice, 36, doing the rip-off at a local truck stop. Choice faces charges of engaging in a drug conspiracy while wearing his weapon. Choice was one of three men charged in the scheme. One pleaded guilty February 17, another has pleaded not guilty. Choice's trial date is April 13.

In Dracut, Massachusetts, the Dracut Police Department is still trying to figure out who got away with $80,000 worth of marijuana in 2003. The pot was stored in a padlocked outdoor storage locker at the back of the police station when it vanished more than five and a half years ago. Investigations by then Middlesex County DA Martha Coakley (now Massachusetts attorney general) and the State Police in 2003 and by Coakley's replacement, Gerry Leone, in 2007 didn't come up with enough evidence to arrest anyone. Now city selectmen have begun a third investigation, calling in the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council, which conducts investigations of local departments if invited. Lie detector tests of police officers began in December. But the clock is ticking; the statute of limitations on prosecuting the crime will run out in a few weeks.

In St. Louis, more than a thousand drug convictions are under review because of corruption cases filed against two St. Louis police officers in December. Officers Bobby Lee Garrett, 48, and Vincent Carr, 46, were arrested by the FBI and accused of stealing thousands of dollars from a drug dealer, planting money, drugs, and a gun, and covering it all up. Carr pleaded guilty February 13, while Garrett is pleading not guilty. The cases against Garrett and Carr have already caused St. Louis prosecutors to drop 47 cases, and they are reviewing another 986 convictions to see whether the pair played a significant role in them. Federal prosecutors have already "put the brakes on" three cases before charges were filed and are reviewing another 45 to 50 more.

Law Enforcement: Belated Justice for Kathryn Johnston as Judge Sentences Atlanta Narcs Who Killed Her to Prison

A federal judge in Atlanta Tuesday sent three former Atlanta narcotics officers to prison for their roles in a misbegotten drug raid that ended in the death of a 92-year-old woman and shone a disturbing light on police practices in the Atlanta police drug squad. The victim, Kathryn Johnston, was killed when the three officers fired 39 rounds at her after she fired one shot at them as they were breaking down her door on a bogus drug raid.
Kathryn Johnston
US District Court Judge Julie Carnes sentenced former officer Arthur Tesler to five years in prison, Gregg Junnier to six years, and Jason Smith to 10 years. All three sentences were less than those called for by federal sentencing guidelines.

Johnston was killed about 7 p.m. on November 21, 2006. Three hours earlier, Tesler arrested and roughed-up a small-time drug dealer named Fabian Sheats and threatened to send him to prison unless he gave up another drug dealer. Sheats eventually pointed out Johnston's home, apparently at random, telling Tesler and his partners he saw a dealer named "Sam" with a kilo of cocaine there.

The three officers wanted to make a buy, but didn't consider Sheats reliable, so they called an informant named Alex White to come make the buy. But White was unavailable, so the trio simply wrote a false affidavit saying they had watched White make a cocaine buy at Johnston's home. Shortly before 6:00 p.m., they had their no-knock search warrant. An hour later, Johnston was dead after firing upon the intruders she apparently thought were robbers.

Then the cover-up kicked in, with the trio creating more false documents to hide the truth. But their cover-up fell apart when their informant, Alex White, grew frightened and went to the FBI.

In her sentencing statement, Judge Carnes criticized the Atlanta Police Department for its performance quotas for search warrants and arrests, saying the "pressures brought to bear did have an impact on these and other officers on the force." If anything good came from Johnston's death, it will be "a renewed effort by the Atlanta Police Department to prevent something like this from ever happening again," Carnes said. "It is my fervent hope the APD will take to heart what has happened here," the judge said.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Uniformed cops, jail guards, narcs, and assistant police chiefs -- all gone bad this week. Let's get to it:
too much drug cash can corrupt cops
In Otisville, New York, an NYPD officer was arrested last Friday for allegedly laundering money for her boyfriend's drug trafficking operation. Officer Yaniris Balbuena, an eight-year NYPD veteran, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering for receiving thousands of dollars in drug proceeds from her boyfriend, "a known narcotics trafficker in the Bronx." She deposited over $230,000 in cash in nine bank accounts she controlled. She's now looking at up to 20 years in federal prison.

In Bowling Green, Kentucky, two assistant police chiefs were indicted by a federal grand jury February 5 on prescription drug charges. They were also accused of threatening a witness. Assistant Chiefs Johnny Lee Travis, 41, and Maxie Christopher Murphy, both of Glasgow, Kentucky, are accused of illegally possessing hydrocodone between February 2004 and January 2008, and intimidating and threatening a witness between November 2007 and June 2008. They're looking at up to 21 years in prison each.

In Albany, Georgia, a Dougherty County narc was arrested February 11 on sexual assault charges. Dougherty County police officer David Gilliam, 41, a member of the Albany Dougherty Drug Unit, faces counts of sexual battery, false imprisonment, and violation of oath of office for allegedly trying to rape a 26-year-old woman while he worked an off-duty security job at the hotel where she was staying. Gilliam worked for the department since October 2005 and spent the last two years on the dope squad. He was fired the same day he was arrested.

In Fall River, Massachusetts, a Bristol County jail guard was arrested February 11 for allegedly smuggling drugs into the county prison. Marco Moniz is charged with conspiracy to violate drug laws and delivering contraband to a penal institution.

In Indianapolis, a former Indianapolis Metro Police officer pleaded guilty last Friday to running a marijuana distribution ring. Former officer James Davis was one of three Indy Metro Police officers busted in an FBI sting last year. Davis, Robert Long, and Jason Edwards were accused of robbing marijuana dealers and selling their stashes, so the FBI rented a house, rigged it with surveillance cameras, and put out the word the pot was there. The trio got busted in June when they broke in to steal five pounds of pot and $18,000. Davis will get 10-to-15 years instead of a possible 35 in exchange for testifying against his erstwhile comrades, who go to trial next month. He will be sentenced May 1.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

There may be something rotten in the dope squad in Philly, something definitely was rotten in Beantown, and yes, another jail guard goes down. Let's get to it:

In Philadelphia, the city District Attorney's office announced Monday in was opening a probe into a city police narcotics officer accused by a former confidential informant of falsifying evidence to make cases against suspected drug dealers. Officer Jeffrey Cujdik, 34, a veteran of nearly 12 years with the department, has turned in his gun, and the FBI is about to join the department's internal affairs unit and the DA's office in investigating the case. Suspicions about Cujdik and his informant, Ventura Martinez, were first raised more than a year ago by a suspicious defense attorney in a drug case. Martinez lived in a house owned by Cujdik, an apparent violation of department rules for keeping snitches at arms' length, and had been earning $200 or $300 a pop for turning up drug or guns cases for his handler. But Cujdik ended the relationship and threw Martinez out of the house in December, and Martinez is saying Cujdik regularly fabricated evidence to make drug busts. Now, Philadelphia public defenders say they are reviewing the cases of people jailed in cases involving Cujdik, and so are prosecutors.

In Boston, a former Massachusetts state trooper pleaded guilty Monday to conspiring to distribute the prescription pain reliever OxyContin and using extortion to collect drug debts. Former trooper Mark Lemieux was one of four people, including a retired state trooper, arrested in May 2007 on OxyContin conspiracy charges. The retired trooper, Joseph Catanese, had worked with Lemieux on a drug task force. He pleaded guilty last fall to using extortion to collect drug debts and conspiring to obstruct justice. Two civilians in the case have received three-year prison terms. Catanese and Lemieux have yet to be sentenced.

In Jamestown, California, a Sierra Conservation Center jail guard was arrested February 2 for allegedly selling drugs to inmates. Jail guard Matthew McCollum, 27, faces charges of possessing drugs in prison, bringing drugs into the prison, selling drugs to inmates, and criminal conspiracy. He had been employed there since August 2008.

Release: Congress Includes Billions in Stimulus Package for Controversial Grant Program Linked to Civil Rights Abuses

For Immediate Release: February 6, 2009 Contact: Tony Newman at 646-335-5384 or Bill Piper at 202-669-6430 Congress Includes Billions in Stimulus Package for Controversial Byrne Grant Program Linked to Racial Disparities, Police Corruption and Civil Rights Abuses More Byrne Grant Money Means More Arrests and Incarceration for Marijuana and other Low-level Drug offenses Funding of Program without Reform a Slap in the Face to Victims of Tulia and Hearne Scandals Last week the U.S. House approved a stimulus package including $3 billion for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants program, a controversial law enforcement grant program linked to racial disparities, police corruption and civil rights abuses. The Senate is currently considering the package. Critics say increased funding for the Byrne Grant program is going to backfire by increasing costs on one of the least productive sectors of the U.S. economy: the prison industrial complex. "The last thing we need in a stimulus plan is an incentive for more arrests, more jail time and more prisons," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug policy Alliance. "If Congress wants to give away billions to local law enforcement, it needs to make clear that the objective is public safety, not catching more young people for possessing a joint." Law enforcement agencies, especially narcotics taskforces, are often evaluated and funded based on how many people they arrest. Since low-level drug offenders are plentiful and easy to catch, it's easy for police to pad their numbers by arresting them, even as violent criminals roam free. The more nonviolent drug offenders the police arrest, the more federal money they receive. The number of Americans behind bars grows, and taxpayers are left footing the bill. It's no wonder, criminal justice reformers say, that the United States ranks first in the world in per capita incarceration rates, with 5% of the world's population but 25% of the world's prisoners. The U.S. locks up more of its citizens on a per capita basis than China, Cuba, Mexico, Russia or any other country in the world. Police made more than 1.8 million drug arrests in 2007 (the latest year data is available), about 775,000 were for nothing more than simple possession of marijuana for personal use. The Byrne Grant program is also at the center of some our country's most shocking civil rights abuses. The most notorious Bryne-funded scandal occurred in 1999 in Tulia, Texas where dozens of African-American residents (representing nearly half of the town's black population) were arrested, prosecuted and sentenced to decades in prison, even though the only evidence against them was the uncorroborated testimony of one white undercover officer with a history of lying and racism. The undercover officer worked alone, and had no audiotapes, video surveillance, or eyewitnesses to corroborate his allegations. Suspicions arose after two of the defendants accused were able to produce firm evidence showing they were out of state or at work at the time of the alleged drug buys. Texas Governor Rick Perry eventually pardoned the Tulia defendants (after four years of imprisonment), but these kinds of scandals continue to plague the Byrne grant program. In another Byrne-related scandal, a magistrate judge found that a regional narcotics task force in Hearne, Texas routinely targeted African Americans as part of an effort to drive blacks out of the majority white town. For the past 15 years, the Byrne-funded task force annually raided the homes of African Americans and arrested and prosecuted innocent citizens. The county governments involved in the Hearne task force scandal eventually settled a civil suit, agreeing to pay financial damages to some of the victims of discrimination. In a recent letter to House and Senate leaders, fifteen national civil rights and criminal justice organizations urged members of Congress to shift the Byrne Grant money in the stimulus bill to treatment, rehabilitation and other effective programs instead. The groups include included the ACLU, the National African-American Drug Policy Coalition, the National Black Police Association, National Council on Crime and Delinquency, Justice Policy Institute, and the United Methodist Church. "The war on drugs is a new form of Jim Crow, systematically targeting communities of color and filling our prisons with nonviolent offenders at great taxpayer expense," Nadelmann said. "It is doubtful states could afford their punitive criminal justice polices without federal subsidies. Members of Congress who support the Byrne Grant program are perpetuating injustice and burdening taxpayers" ###

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

It's jail guards gone wild this week, plus a very sleazy Texas sheriff, some entrepreneurial Fresno narcs, and the latest problems with the evidence room in Galveston. Let's get to it:
Is something missing from the evidence room?
In Fort Worth, Texas, a former Montague County sheriff pleaded guilty January 29 to extorting sexual favors from a woman as the price of avoiding a drug charge. Former Sheriff Bill Keating, 62, went down for a November drug raid at a home where the victim and her boyfriend lived. The boyfriend was arrested on outstanding warrants and removed by sheriff's deputies, who then searched the house and found meth paraphernalia. Sheriff Keating shooed the remaining deputy out of the bedroom, closed the door, and told the victim, "You are about to be my new best friend." He then threatened to arrest her on drug charges unless she "assisted" him by performing oral sex on him on multiple occasions and becoming a snitch for him. She eventually went to outside authorities instead, and now Keating is headed for the big house. He will be sentenced in May, when he faces up to 10 years. But that may just be the beginning of the story. Local prosecutors said they expected to indict Keating and as many as a dozen jail employees on charges they had sex with prisoners and smuggled in contraband to the county jail.

In Galveston, Texas, drugs have gone missing from the police evidence room -- again. Police Chief Charles Wiley reported January 29 that when officers went to destroy drugs that had already had their day in court, they found small bags of marijuana, cocaine, hydrocodone, and Xanax were no longer there. When they began checking on evidence for cases still pending, they found more missing drugs. Prosecutors have now put on hold all pending drug cases that rely on drug evidence until they can verify the evidence still exists, just as they did last year, when another cache of missing drug evidence led to the dismissal of 21 cases, the firing of the police chief and a detective, and the indictment of a clerk who worked in the evidence room. Reforms were supposed to have been put in place after last year's scandal, but it's not clear they have been. If they have, it doesn't look like they're working.

In Fresno, California, two Fresno Police Department narcotics officers were arrested last Friday on auto theft charges. A third faces misdemeanor charges for providing false information to investigators in the case. Officers Paul Cervantes, 32, and Hector Becerra, 33, both detectives in the Major Narcotics Unit, are accused of misusing confidential informants to lure drug dealers, then stealing their cars. They now face felony auto theft charges. Officer Richard Epps is accused of lying to investigators. Prosecutors said at least one case has had to be dropped because the pair were involved, and more could follow. A fourth Fresno narc, Ubaldo Garza, was not arrested, but investigators seized about 10 vehicles from his home. Garza also owns a business where investigators said they observed activities "consistent" with a "chop shop," where stolen cars are dismantled and their parts sold. On Wednesday, Fresno police announced they were shutting down the entire narcotics unit pending a review.

In Levittown, New York, Jail Guard Accused Of Selling Drugs To Inmates" target=_blank_>a Nassau County jail guard was arrested last Friday for smuggling marijuana, Oxycontin, and cigarettes in for prisoners. Luke Holland, 42, is accused of reaping $9,000 for numerous drug sales to inmates over a nine-month period. Holland is charged with receiving reward for official misconduct in the second degree, a Class E felony carrying a maximum of four years in prison. Holland has been suspended without pay by the Nassau County Sheriff's Department and is free on cash bail.

In Augusta, Georgia, a Richmond County deputy sheriff was arrested January 29 for selling marijuana to inmates at the Richmond County Jail. Deputy Michael Arrington, a two-year veteran of the department, was arrested at the jail and is being held there out of general population. He faces felony charges for marijuana distribution and "crossing a guard line with drugs."

In New Castle, Indiana, a prison guard at the New Castle Correctional Facility was arrested Monday for helping an imprisoned cocaine dealer escape. Maurice Melton, 38, is accused of silencing a door alarm at a minimum security dorm to help the inmate escape, then driving him to Indianapolis. Prison officials said Melton expected to be paid for his help. But now, Melton has been demoted from correctional facility guard to Henry County Jail inmate. The New Castle prison is privately operated by the CEO Group (formerly Wackenhut), and Melton is a CEO Group employee. He has been suspended without pay, too.

In Walla Walla, Washington, a former Washington State Penitentiary prison guard was sentenced last Friday to more than three years in prison for delivering heroin, cocaine, methadone, and marijuana to an inmate. Former guard Camren Jones, 20, must also pay $13,000 -- the cost of locking down the prison to search other inmates for drugs. Jones will likely serve his sentence out of state for his own safety.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Another jail guard gets caught, a Michigan narc cops a plea, so does an Arizona cop, and a North Carolina deputy is going to prison. Let's get to it:

In Boston, Texas, a Bowie County jail guard was arrested last Friday after she got caught trying to smuggle marijuana into the jail. Bowie County Correctional Officer Amber Nicole Hinds, 20, went down when jail authorities ordered a search of all employees entering the jail. Hinds moved to the back of the line, and her fellow guards ratted her out. Authorities found marijuana on her person when they searched her. The charges she faces are as yet unspecified.

In Tucson, Arizona, a former South Tucson police lieutenant pleaded guilty Monday to embezzling more than $560,000 from the city and the police department. Richard Robles Garcia admitted taking funds from 2004 to 2008, when he was fired after an audit. He used his position as head of the department's evidence room and asset forfeiture program to turn the funds into his own personal bank, using them to pay off gambling debts, he admitted.

In Benton Harbor, Michigan, a former Benton Harbor narcotics officer pleaded guilty Tuesday to a felony charge of drug trafficking. Andrew Thomas Collins, 26, pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute more than five grams of crack cocaine. He faces a minimum of five years in prison and a maximum of 40 years, plus a fine of $2,000. Collins was arrested in February 2008 after being caught in possession of crack cocaine and other drugs. He admitted repeatedly failing to report seized drugs, instead keeping them for himself and falsely reporting he had made controlled drug purchases. Local prosecutors have announced they had to drop a number of drug cases because they were tainted by Collins.

In Yadkinville, North Carolina, a former Yadkin County deputy was sentenced to at least 34 months in prison Monday for embezzling funds from the department, peddling Oxycontin, and falsely telling people he had cancer in a bid to raise funds for his "treatment." Former Deputy Darrell Thornton pleaded guilty to 10 counts of embezzlement, two counts of attempting to traffic in opium and OxyContin, one count of obtaining property by false pretenses and common-law forgery. The pleas were part of a deal with prosecutor Fred Bauer in which eight counts of larceny by an employee were dropped and all the guilty pleas were merged into four charges for sentencing. Thornton stole $4,200 in drug buy money, as well as receiving $1,800 from a fundraiser for his nonexistent cancer and its supposed treatment. His attorney said the one-time narcotics officer had developed an addiction to Oxycontin in the course of treatment for medical problems.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

No crooked jail guards this week, but we do have a nice variety of law enforcement and prosecutorial misbehavior. Let's get to it:

In Fairview, Oklahoma, a former Custer County Sheriff was convicted last Friday on rape and bribery charges for coercing sex from female inmates and drug court defendants. Former Sheriff Mike Burgess, 56, was convicted of 13 felonies, including five counts of second-degree rape and three counts of bribery by a public official. Testimony included that of several former female inmates who testified they feared they would be sent to prison if they did not provide sexual favors to the sheriff, as well as two female drug court participants. Burgess sexually assaulted one of them in his patrol car after arresting her for a drug court violation. The jury recommended Burgess be sentenced to 94 years in prison, but sentencing is not until March 24.

In Oakland, California, 11 police officers, including two sergeants, were fired January 15 for their roles in falsifying search warrant affidavits in drug cases. The police officers would make a drug buy, then seek a search warrant from a judge, telling him the substances had been tested when they hadn't. Oakland Police discovered the problem during an internal affairs investigation and went public at the end of September. Now, the city faces lawsuits from at least seven people claiming Oakland police "have repeatedly violated the constitutional rights of citizens by fabricating information in reports (and) providing false and/or intentionally misleading information in warrant affidavits to the court." A number of pending cases have been dropped, too.

In Muncie, Indiana, the Delaware County prosecutor must repay $168,092 unlawfully seized in drug cases, a circuit court judge ruled last Friday. Delaware County Prosecutor Mark McKinney collected the seized assets and attorneys' fees in confidential agreements without a court order. Indiana state law requires a court order, and it requires that asset forfeiture proceeds be divided between state and local government and schools, but McKinney instead deposited the funds into accounts for the Muncie-Delaware County Drug Task Force and the Muncie city police department. McKinney has 30 days to come up with the money. Deputy Prosecutor Eric Hoffman also has to repay $17,164. The judge in the case said both men had perpetrated "a fraud on the court" by their actions.

In Huntsville, Alabama, the city, the police chief, and a former officer are being sued by a man who claims the officer planted marijuana in his car and then arrested him for marijuana possession. Officer Wesley Little and another officer, Ryan Moore, were indicted in May 2008 on criminal evidence tampering charges in the case, and the charges against Quincy Turner were later dropped. Little and Moore were investigated after Little was overheard saying "there could be some marijuana inside the vehicle if it needed to be." Both Little and Moore resigned from the Huntsville Police Department in June, but now, the good citizens of Huntsville are likely to pay for their out-of-control employees' misdeeds.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Dallas deputy gets busted, so does a Sacramento jail doctor, and a crooked cop in Miami is headed for prison. Let's get to it:

In Dallas, a Dallas County sheriff's deputy was arrested Monday on federal felony drug charges. Deputy Standric Choice, 36, is accused of possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute and conspiracy to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute more than 500 grams. Choice was arrested with two other men after meeting with an informant and plotting to rob a cocaine dealer and steal his four kilo stash. Unfortunately for Choice and his crew, the cocaine dealer was actually another agent. Choice was busted at the Dallas Sheriff's Department when he went to work after the robbery.

In Sacramento, California, the medical director of Correctional Health Services for the Sacramento County Jail was arrested Wednesday morning on suspicion of writing bogus prescriptions for Oxycontin, the powerful prescription pain reliever. Dr. Peter Dietrich had been under investigation since July 2008 because of the large number of prescriptions he had been writing. Authorities were uncertain whether Dietrich was consuming the pills himself or diverting them into illicit markets. He has since bailed out of jail and is on paid administrative leave. (Of course, there's always a chance that Dietrich was practicing pain medicine the way it should be, as opposed to what is tolerated -- always something to bear in mind with opiate prescribing.)

In Miami, a former Miami police detective was sentenced January 8 to nine years in federal prison for his role in protecting what he thought were shipments of cocaine and stolen goods. Jorge Hernandez had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. He was one of two Miami police officers arrested last May in an FBI sting in which an undercover agent lured them into using their police car to escort shipments of supposed drugs and stolen goods.

Southeast Asia: Philippines President Names Herself Drug Czar, Orders Random Testing of All High School Students, More to Come

Philippines President Gloria Arroyo named herself the country's drug czar Monday and ordered government agencies to prepare for battle against big-time drug traffickers. But in the meantime, she has announced new marching orders on another front: student drug testing. As one of her first acts as drug czar, she ordered random student drug testing for every high school in the country, public or private.
Philippine president and top drug war demagogue Gloria Arroyo
The immediate cause of Arroyo's seizure of the reins of drug control policy was the "Alabang Boys scandal," in which three Ecstasy traffickers managed to get initially acquitted despite the strong evidence against them, leading to suspicions of crooked prosecutors. Arroyo this week ordered five prosecutors suspended pending further investigation.

But problems in the Philippines' drug war policing go much further than the Alabang Boys. Filipino drug fighters have compiled a dismal record in prosecuting drug evidence, due apparently, to equal parts incompetence and corruption. Of the nearly 100,000 cases filed by the Philippines Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in the last five years, nearly 78,000 are still unresolved.

Arroyo has pledged to change all that. "Governments that delay action against illegal drugs, or regard it as a routine police matter, do so at their own peril," Arroyo told a Monday cabinet meeting. "A country awash with illegal drugs is a country compromised, its law and order institutions tainted and corrupted. I will temporarily act as czar, or overseer, of the war against illegal drugs," Arroyo added, stressing that the campaign would include boosting law enforcement and prosecution.

On Tuesday, Arroyo showed she meant business by sending Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita out to tell reporters she had ordered law enforcement agencies to prepare an order of battle against traffickers. "Our law enforcement agencies involved in the campaign must come up with specific actions against those who are known big-time people involved in drug trafficking. It follows without saying, the President wants immediate identification of those who could be subject of this campaign and bring them before the bar of justice," Ermita said at the Palace news conference.

Anybody involved in drugs is fair game, he warned. "There will be no sacred cows on this. The drive will go all the way. Anyone who will be involved, whoever they may be, they will have to account before the law."

But it is high school students who will first feel the tender mercies of Arroyo's newly reinvigorated war on drugs. The Department of Education announced this week that while it had already planned to reinstitute random drug testing of students -- the Philippines did it between 2003 and 2005 -- it was now moving ahead at an accelerated pace to suit Arroyo's wishes.

And testing of students may be just the beginning. Some Philippines political figures are talking about drug testing employees of outsourced call center workers, others are calling for testing university students, and the government is currently considering drug testing all government employees.

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