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Feature: Mexico Decriminalization Bill Passes -- One Step Forward, Two Steps Back?

Late last week, both houses of the Mexican Congress approved a bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs. The measure is part of a broader bill aimed at small-scale drug dealing and rationalizing Mexico's struggle against violent drug trafficking organizations.

The bill was sponsored by President Felipe Calderón, but support for it from his ruling National Action Party (PAN) has dwindled. Still, most observers who spoke to the Chronicle this week think he will sign the bill.

The Mexican Congress passed similar legislation in 2006, but then President Vicente Fox refused to sign it after hearing protests from the Bush administration. This time, though, there has not been a peep out of Washington either for or against the bill.
Among the bill's main provisions:

  • Decriminalizes "personal use" amounts of drugs;
  • Recognizes harm reduction as a guiding principle;
  • Does not require forced drug treatment for "personal use" possessors;
  • Recognizes traditional cultural drug use;
  • Allows states and municipalities to prosecute small-time drug dealing ("narcomenudeo"), an offense which currently is handled exclusively by federal authorities;
  • Allows police to make drug buys to build cases.

The amounts of various drugs that are decriminalized for personal use are:

  • opium -- 2 grams
  • cocaine -- ½ gram
  • heroin -- 1/10 gram
  • marijuana -- 5 grams
  • LSD -- 150 micrograms
  • methamphetamine -- 1/5 gram
  • ecstasy -- 1/5 gram

The measure comes in the midst of ongoing high levels of violence as President Calderón attempts to crack down on Mexico's wealthy, powerful, and bloody-minded drug trafficking organizations -- the so-called cartels. Approximately 10,000 people have died in prohibition-related violence in Mexico since Calderón called out the armed forces against the cartels in early 2007. The multi-sided confrontation pits the Mexican state against the cartels, the cartels against each other, and even factions of the same cartel against each other.

discussion growing: Feb. '09 drug policy forum held by Mexico's Grupo Parlamentario Alternativa (grupoparlamentarioalternativa.org.mx/node/227)
The US backs Calderón's war on the cartels, allocating $1.4 billion over three years for Plan Mérida. President Obama reiterated his commitment to the Mexican drug war during a visit to the country last month.

The measure also comes against a backdrop of increasing drug use levels in Mexico and increasing concern about the problems associated with that drug use. In recent years, the cartels have figured out that their home country is also an increasingly lucrative market for their wares. Now, if you travel to the right neighborhoods in virtually any Mexican city, you can find storefront retail illegal drug outlets.

"This looks like one step forward, two steps back," said Isaac Campos Costero, an assistant professor of history at the University of Cincinnati and visiting fellow at the University of California at San Diego's Center for US-Mexican Studies. "If we're talking about reducing the crisis of violence in Mexico, I don't think this bill does anything good, and may even exacerbate it. It won't reduce demand, and at the same time it seeks to prosecute small-time dealers more energetically."

"That this suggests growing support for decriminalization, reduces the criminality of drug users, embraces harm reduction, and acknowledges cultural uses is a good thing and consistent with what is going on elsewhere in Latin America," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "The idea of decriminalization of possession based in part on human rights and public health grounds has gained real traction in the region, which is somewhat surprising given the long preoccupation with drugs and organized crime," he said.

"But there's this other part of it that is all about Calderón's war on the traffickers; it's part and parcel of empowering law enforcement," Nadelmann continued. "There is serious concern that law enforcement has lost the upper hand to the gangsters, and the risk here is that the new law will give police all the more opportunity to go after low-level distributors and addicts who sell drugs to support their habits, while diverting attention from serious violent criminals."

For Mexican drug reformers organized as the Collective for Integrated Drug Policy, while the bill is an advance, its failure to more fully incorporate public health and human rights perspectives runs the risk of creating negative consequences for the country. In a statement released after the bill passed the Congress, the group praised the legislation for distinguishing between consumers, addicts, and criminals, for increasing the amount of marijuana from two grams to five, for acknowledging the role of harm reduction, and for removing the provision that would have required drug treatment for those caught holding.

But the group also expressed its preoccupation with other parts of the bill. "The law only marginally considers the problem of drug consumption and limits itself to legally defining it," the collective noted. "On the other hand, it focuses on intensifying a military and police strategy that has proven to be a failure."

The collective also worried that "the law will criminalize a vast group of people who make a living off small-time drug dealing" who are not cartel members but impoverished citizens. "Imprisoning them will not diminish the supply of drugs on the street, nor will it improve public security; yet it will justify the war on drugs, since the government will be able to boast the number of people incarcerated with this policy," the group wrote.

The decriminalization quantities are too small, the group said, and that will lead to problems. "These amounts are not realistic in terms of the drug market (for example, the initiative allows a consumer to have a half-gram of coke, when coke is sold on the streets by the gram), and we thus can anticipate a significant increase in corruption and extortion of consumers by police forces," the statement said.

Jorge Hernández Tinajero, an advisor to Social Democratic Party Deputy Elsa Conde, is also the leader of the collective. "Elsa went to the session and loudly criticized the bill, saying it was not an integrated policy but a new way to make more corruption and put more people in jail, especially women who desperately need to work and earn some money," he recounted. "She said 70% of the women in jail are there because they are small dealers."

"While the bill doesn't go far enough, it at least decriminalizes possession for personal use, and treatment is no longer mandatory if you get caught carrying your personal dose," said Dr. Humberto Brocca, a member of the collective. "Now, you will not have to show that you are an addict and thus a candidate for treatment," he said, referring to current Mexican law, which creates a loophole for addicts in possession of drugs.

"It's a mixed bag," said Ana Paula Hernández, a Mexico City-based consultant on drug policy and human rights. "The headlines will be that drug possession has been decriminalized, but when you look at it more closely, the consequences could be very serious," she said. "Now, state and local authorities will be able to prosecute crimes related to small-scale drug dealing. That would be good if Mexico were a different country, but corruption is so extreme at those levels that giving these authorities these powers could greatly increase their level of involvement in organized crime."

Whether the bill will have any impact at all on the major trafficking organizations who are ostensibly the target of the Mexican government's offensive remains to be seen.

"I don't think this is going to have any impact on the government's war against the cartels," said Hernandez. "For that to happen, we need to have a structural, democratic reform of police forces and the judiciary at the state and municipal level by reallocating resources for prevention and information campaigns on drug use with a risk and harm reduction perspective; and of course by other measures such as real decriminalization."

Brocca, too, foresaw more arrests as a result of the bill, but little impact on the violence plaguing the country. "Yeah, they will sweep up mostly small-timers so the party in power can look good," he said, "but it will probably have no impact whatsoever on the prohibition-related violence."

Whatever action Mexico takes is likely to have little impact on the violence without changes in US drug policies, Campos Costero said. Still, passage of the bill could have an important psychological effect, he said.

"From a symbolic point of view, once this goes into effect and Armageddon doesn't happen and society doesn't crumble, this may help break down attitudes a bit and pave the way for more substantive reforms in the future," said Campos Costero.

The bill could also undercut Mexico's historic opposition to relaxation of the drug laws north of the border. "Mexico has opposed US reform efforts on marijuana in the past, but by passing this bill, Mexico effectively reduces its ability to complain about US drug reform in the future," said Campos Costero. "And that's significant."

But that doesn't mean Mexicans would not raise a stink if the US moved toward radical drug reforms, Campos Costero noted. "For years and years, Mexicans have been hearing condescending remarks from the US about how they're not tough enough on drugs, so if the US were to pursue legalization, the Mexican public would go crazy. They see it as a demand problem, but of course, it's really a policy problem," he said. "If there were more rational drug policies, we could have demand at the same levels, but eliminate these problems."

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

More crooked prison guards, more crooked cops, and in a first for this newsletter, a crooked Fish and Wildlife officer. Let's get to it:

In Baltimore, four current or former Maryland state prison guards were among two dozen people indicted by a federal grand jury April 16 on drug conspiracy and other charges. The guards allegedly worked to provide imprisoned Black Guerrilla Family gang leaders with heroin, ecstasy, tobacco, cell phones, and other contraband. Gang members would sell the drugs inside the prison and use the cell phones to set up drug deals on the outside. Current prison guards Asia Burrus, 22, and Musheerah Habeebullah, 27, were indicted, as was former guard Terry Robe, 26, and former prison kitchen employee, Takevia Smith, 24. Another half dozen guards were also implicated, but have not yet been charged.

In Wellston, Missouri, a former Wellston police officer was indicted April 16 for paying prostitutes for sex and providing them with heroin. Former officer David Dausman, 35, was arrested in January and fired shortly thereafter. He is charged with corruption by a public servant, felony drug delivery, patronizing a prostitute. He also faces federal charges of making and possessing counterfeit currency and forging the seal of a federal agency.

In Rochester, Minnesota, a Rochester police officer was arrested April 15 for providing information about Rochester Narcotics Unit members to people being investigated for drug offenses. Officer Vanessa Nicole Mason, 31, also allegedly was seen using drugs and hanging out with known drug offenders. She now faces charges of public officer misconduct and bribery. She was disciplined in 2006 for failing to report drug use by a fellow officer and warned she would be terminated if there were any new disciplinary issues. Her job security right now appears pretty shaky.

In Stock Island, Florida, two Florida Keys law enforcement officers were arrested last week after being snagged in an undercover sting in which they thought they were transporting drugs for drug dealers. Monroe County Sheriff's Office corrections officer Shawn Hernandez and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officer Jonathan Jacox are in federal custody in Miami charged with possession with the intent to distribute narcotics, conspiracy to traffic in narcotics and possession of a firearm in commission of a felony. Between them, the pair carried what they thought were shipments of heroin or cocaine at least five times as the DEA and a raft of other law enforcement agencies watched.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

More problems for the Philly narcs, another border guard goes down, so does a Puerto Rican husband and wife team, and a TSA guard gets popped. Just another week of drug-related law enforcement corruption. Let's get to it:

In Philadelphia, two more Philly PD narcotics officers have been placed on desk duty as FBI and local investigators look into allegations of misconduct. Officers Robert McDonnell and Richard Cujdik, both veterans of the Narcotics Field Unit, retain their department-issued weapons and police powers, but have been taken off the streets. Cujdik is the brother of Officer Jeffrey Cujdik, whose falsification of search warrant affidavits set off an investigation into the unit. That investigation broadened after the Philadelphia Daily News reported accusations by at least 15 convenience store owners that they had been raided, their surveillance cameras disabled, and food, drinks, cigarettes and cash stolen by the dope squad, which then arrested them for selling small plastic baggies. Richard Cujdik led a September 11, 2007, raid on a convenience store, part of which was captured on a hard drive after the officers disabled the surveillance equipment. Cujdik was shown searching the owner's van without a search warrant. The store owner said $10,000 was taken in the raid, but police paperwork documented seizing only $875. McConnell is suspected of collaborating with Jeffrey Cujdik in falsifying search warrants.

In Palm Bay, Florida, a Transportation Security Administration security officer was arrested April 8 on charges he dealt in drugs and guns. Officer Timothy Monroe was being held on $750,000 bond after being arrested as police raided his home, seizing drugs, guns and "piles of cash." Police found marijuana and enough cocaine to trigger a federal trafficking probe, "bags and bags" of marijuana, a variety of firearms and "loads" of ammunition. Monroe quit his TSA gig last Thursday.

In Brownsville, Texas, a US Customs and Border Protection officer pleaded guilty Monday to bribery, alien smuggling, and drug trafficking charges. Sergio Hernandez, 40, has been jailed since he was arrested January 28. Hernandez admitted letting cars carrying contraband drugs or people pass through his lane as he inspected incoming traffic on the Free Trade Bridge at Los Indio between June 2008 and January. Hernandez, a full-service corrupt border official, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to bring illegal immigrants into the US for private financial gain, accepting bribes to do so, as well as conspiring to possess with intent to distribute 15 kilograms of cocaine, and accepting $150,000 in bribes to do so. As part of his plea deal, he also forfeited $85,520 in cash seized from his home after his arrest.

In San Juan, Puerto Rico, a husband and wife police team pleaded guilty Monday to federal drug trafficking charges. Jose Garcia and Jacqueline Torres Cruz were indicted by a US grand jury in February along with two other police officers in the 2007 robbery of a drug dealer. According to prosecutors, the couple conspired to rob the dealer and sell 18 pounds of cocaine themselves. Prosecutors are recommending seven years for Garcia and four for his wife.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Another crooked judge, another dirty border guard, more problems for Philly's narcs, and a guilty plea in Detroit. Let's get to it:

drug prohibition money causes border corruption
In El Paso, Texas, a Texas district court judge was indicted last week on charges he took cash bribes and asked for sex from defendants in exchange for his help making felony cases go away. State District Court Judge Manuel Barraza was indicted on four counts, including mail fraud, wire fraud, and lying to a federal agent. Local prosecutors are now reviewing about 100 drug cases he dismissed. Barraza is out on bail pending trial, but has been suspended from his $140,000 a year job.

In Brownsville, Texas, a US Customs and Border Protection officer was arrested April 2 on charges he took bribes to allow vehicles carrying drugs and illegal immigrants to pass through his border checkpoint. Officer Raul Montano Jr., 34, faces charges of bribery, conspiracy and smuggling illegal immigrants and conspiracy to import and possession of cocaine. According to a criminal complaint filed the same day, Montano would tell another person when he would be inspecting a certain lane on the Brownsville Gateway bridge and that person would relay the information to waiting smugglers on the Mexican side, who would pass through with people and cocaine.

In Philadelphia, two Philadelphia police narcotics squads are being reorganized as part of an effort to better supervise the officers involved. The move comes as one of those squads, Squad 9, is the subject of ongoing federal and local investigations after the Philadelphia Daily News ran a series of articles exposing numerous allegations of illegal acts by Narcotics Officer Jeffrey Cujdik and his cronies. Squad 9 is being dissolved, with its members being dispersed among the 10 remaining dope squads. Cujdik was first accused of lying on search warrant applications to gain access to suspected drug houses and of becoming too close to his snitches. Then, last month, the Daily News ran articles from 14 immigrant convenience store owners alleging Cujdik's squad ransacked their stores, ate food, stole goods and cash, then arrested them for selling small plastic bags that could be used to hold drugs. The Cujdik gang would typically cut the wires to surveillance cameras at the beginning of those raids.

In Detroit, a Detroit police officer pleaded guilty April 2 to tax evasion in the theft of more than $2 million worth of cocaine from a police evidence room. Officer Vincent Crockett, 50, had faced more serious charges of cocaine possession and embezzlement, but a police chemist who would have been a key witness in the case died last year, leaving federal prosecutors with a weak case. In his plea bargain, Crockett admitted to evading 2007 income taxes on $72,000 he received as the result of "an illegal act."

Honoring Good Cops Doesn’t Mean Ignoring Bad Ones

I recently mentioned the controversy surrounding some drug cops in Philadelphia who've been stealing cash and merchandise from convenience stores under the guise of enforcing paraphernalia laws.

Via Radley Balko, it looks like the story is getting more interesting. The Philadelphia Daily News obtained surveillance video from one of the stores, which shows officers sabotaging security cameras. While the video doesn’t catch officers actually stealing anything, it certainly doesn't look good that they're cutting wires on security cameras right before the alleged theft took place. The video also shows that the paraphernalia purchase cited on the search warrant never actually took place. Uh-oh.

The bottom line is that these cops are more than just a little bit dirty. They are insanely corrupt. And yet, the last time I wrote about this, someone actually complained about it in the comment section:

The majority of the criminals out there are bad mouthing the police organization because they are upset they got busted. Documented are thousands of cases where police acted as heroes and law enforcers; no one seems to want to report or testify on their behalf, so I am. I respect the law enforcement organizations for what their true goals are and strongly suggest that people such as your selves find a new line of work.

Yeah, I'll stop complaining about police misconduct when police stop committing outrageous crimes. I appreciate good police work as much as anyone, but I won't ignore or forgive horrible misconduct just because other cops are doing their job. Most bus drivers aren't alcoholics, but that doesn't mean every incident of drunk bus driving should become a celebration of all the heroic bus drivers who don't go to work wasted.

One crooked cop is one too many. And if the good cops can’t get rid of the bad ones, then they're not exactly perfect either.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

What's up with Pennsylvania? Yet more ugliness from the Keystone State, as well as the all too predictable border guard in trouble and jail guard with a bad habit. Let's get to it:

In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled March 26 that a judge could throw out as many as 1,200 convictions of juveniles sentenced by a Luzerne County judge who agreed to plead guilty in March to taking bribes from a detention center owner to ensure he had a steady supply of juvenile offenders to house. Former Luzerne County Juvenile Court Judge Mark Ciavarella and his colleague, Judge Michael Conahan, agreed to cop a plea to taking $2.6 million in bribes from PA Child Care LLC and Western Pennsylvania Child Care LLC to send juveniles to prison for months for small-time offenses including possession of a pot pipe. The two crooked judges are looking at 87 months in prison each.

In Philadelphia, a Philadelphia police officer was arrested last Friday on charges he dealt drugs both before and after he joined the force. Officer Alhinde Weems, 33, went down after an informant working with a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent snitched him out. That informant bought an ounce of crack cocaine from Weems in December and two more ounces in January. Later that month, the feds set up a sting in which Weems was videotaped selling what he thought was a pound of cocaine to a man he thought was a big-time drug dealer, but was actually an undercover agent. In February, Weems was videotaped telling the undercover agent he wanted to do a home invasion robbery of a drug dealer to steal his stash, and last Friday, as he was on his way to the fake bust, he was really busted. Now Weems faces up to 25 years in federal prison on conspiracy and drug dealing charges.

In Laredo, Texas, a former Border Patrol agent was sentenced Wednesday to 14 years in federal prison for taking a bribe to ensure a load of cocaine could move safely through Zapata County, on the Mexican border. Leonel Morales pleaded guilty in January to bribery after being caught on tape negotiating, planning, and accepting a $9,000 bribe to protect a 20-kilogram load. He also bragged that he could get other border agents out of the area when the load was ready to be moved. He must pay an $11,000 fine, too.

In Bellefontaine, Ohio, a Logan County jail guard was arrested Tuesday on charges she stole prescription drugs belonging to inmates. Guard Theresa Zook went down after inmates reported seeing her taking drugs belonging to someone being booked into the jail. After failing a polygraph exam, she admitted taking the pills, as well as taking drugs from a locked cabinet in the nurse's office. She was fired and now faces two counts of theft. She said she stole the pills because she was anxious.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Narcs gone wild, narcs cheating on their pay, narcs stealing dope, narcs lying on the stand, a perverted sheriff heads to prison, and that's just the half of it. Let's get to it:

In Philadelphia, a scandal over the behavior of the Philadelphia police Narcotics Field Unit keeps growing. Originally centered on narcotics officer Jeffrey Cujdik and accusations he lied in documenting drug arrests, the stench from the narcotics squad keeps getting more foul. Numerous convenience store owners have reported Cujdik and his squad members raided their shops, destroyed surveillance cameras in the stores, trashed the places, stole cigarettes, took thousands in cash while reporting much less, and then arrested them for selling small plastic bags that could be used to contain drugs. The Philadelphia Daily News interviewed seven store owners with remarkably similar stories, including several who said the narcs took food and slurped energy drinks, and others who said they stole cigarette cartons, batteries, cell phones, and candy bars. At least three of Cudjdik's snitches told the newspaper he gave them cartons of cigarettes. A special task force of FBI and Philadelphia police internal affairs was already investigating Cujdik over the earlier allegations; now that probe could spread to at least 17 other officers and three police supervisors involved in the convenience store raids.

In McKeesport, Pennsylvania, the entire McKeesport Police narcotics unit has been implicated in a pay scam. Seven officers were suspended last week after Chief Joe Pero discovered they were billing the city for court appearances they never made. Those suspended include two lieutenants and all four members of the dope squad. All have been reassigned. No word yet on any possible criminal charges.

In Alamagordo, New Mexico, an Alamagordo Department of Public Safety undercover narcotics officer was arrested last Friday after fellow officers noticed him acting erratically, took him to a hospital for drug testing, and received a positive drug test result. Richard Ramsdale then went down for trafficking by possession with intent to distribute after further investigation uncovered 1.3 pounds of unaccounted for cocaine in his cruiser. He was booked into the Otero County Jail and placed on administrative leave pending a termination hearing.

In New York City, an NYPD narcotics detective was indicted Monday on charges she perjured herself in a drug case. Detective Debra Eager was a little over-eager to make a collar stick when she told a court she and her partner watches two drug suspects carrying boxes into a building. She testified that she then followed the pair into the building, arrested them, and seized 33 pounds of marijuana. But she didn't realize the building was under video surveillance, which directly contradicted her testimony. The case was thrown out, and Eager was indicted on three counts of first-degree perjury, each worth up to seven years in prison. She is also suspended without pay.

In New Orleans, a rookie New Orleans police officer was arrested Saturday in a string of home invasion assaults originally thought to have been committed by someone impersonating a police officer. Officer Darrius Clipps faces numerous charges after admitting he had burst into the women's homes, demanded drugs and money, and forced his victims to undress. Clipps went down after a composite sketch of the suspect was released and several of his fellow officers recognized him. He faces charges of malfeasance in office, sexual battery, false imprisonment with a weapon, simple and aggravated kidnapping, aggravated burglary, and unauthorized entry of an inhabited dwelling. He resigned upon arrest.

In Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, a Luzerne County Correctional Facility officer was charged March 18 with being part of a multi-million dollar drug trafficking ring run by the Outlaws Motorcycle Club. Guard John Gonda, 38, was one of 22 people arrested by SWAT teams belonging to the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office in wrapping up a ring officials said was distributing a kilogram of cocaine every 10 days. Investigators seized 528 grams of cocaine, cutting agents, drug paraphernalia, more than $5,000 cash, rifles, shotguns, handguns, bulletproof vests, the gang's bylaws and a list of Outlaw associates in prison. Officials said they did not know if Gonda was peddling coke at the jail.

In Dallas, a Dallas County sheriff's deputy pleaded guilty this week to plotting to rip off drug dealers. Standric Choice, 36, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine. Choice had plotted with two other men to steal cocaine from a dealer by having one of them pretend to be a snitch, then arresting the snitch and taking the cocaine from the dealer. He went down in a sting at a Dallas truck stop. He now faces 10 years to life in federal prison and a $4.25 million fine.

In Memphis, two former Memphis officers were sentenced March 18 in a federal corruption case in which they admitted stealing drugs from dealers and reselling them. Former officers Antoine Owens and Alexander Johnson were sentenced in federal court to five years and two years respectively after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate civil rights. They admitted conspiring with two other Memphis police officers to use their police authority to stop drug dealers, then steal dope and cash from them.

In Fairview, Oklahoma, a former Custer County Sheriff was sentenced Tuesday to 79 years in prison for sexually abusing female prisoners and drug court defendants. Former Sheriff Mike Burgess was sentenced on felony charges including five counts of second-degree rape. He was convicted of using his power over the women to force them to have sex with him.

In Brownsville, Texas, a former San Benito police officer was sentenced Tuesday to more than 13 years in federal prison for scheming with one other San Benito police officer and a local small business owner to rip off drug loads. Edgar Heberto Lopez and his partners in crime stole 200 to 300 pounds of pot during a February 2003 traffic stop, paid a tow truck driver $1,000 to haul the vehicle with the pot to a safe location in San Benito, and later sold 50 pounds of their stash to an undercover officer in February 2004. The two cops got $7,500 each in that deal. The next month, they stole six kilograms of cocaine during another traffic stop. They were supposed to get $10,000 for that heist; instead they got busted. Lopez pleaded guilty in July 2004, but fled before sentencing, only to be recaptured in April 2008. He has been jailed ever since, and he will be for a long time after pleading guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent marijuana, possession with intent to distribute more than 100 pounds of marijuana, carrying a firearm during the commission of a crime, and failure to appear.

The Fine Line Between Drug Raids and Armed Robberies

It seems Philadelphia's drug cops have adopted a nasty habit of raiding corner stores accused of selling paraphernalia, then smashing security cameras and just straight-up stealing cash and merchandise.

The accused officers are denying everything, of course, but the Philadelphia Daily News found multiple former informants who acknowledge being paid with cigarettes. Hmm, I wonder where those came from.

It's truly remarkable how often the soldiers in the war on drugs can be found committing worse crimes than the people they're investigating.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

This week, we have some drug cops whose misbehavior may not reach the standard of corruption, but is certainly worth noting. And then we have the usual corrupt cops. Let's get to it:

too much drug cash can corrupt cops
In Orlando, Florida, Orange County Sheriff's Office narcs are under investigation for allegedly failing to turn up for drug searches after drinking cocktails for lunch as supervisors watched. The Sheriff's Office has confirmed it is investigating at least a half-dozen officers, including at least two sergeants, and there could be a "pattern" of bad behavior in the unit. The unit was already under fire after drug cases had to be dropped because officers got caught lying. This latest investigation came as a result of yet another investigation, this one of one of the narcotics sergeants involved and some missing evidence.

In Manitowoc, Wisconsin, a Manitowoc DARE officer was arrested March 2 for driving while intoxicated. Officer Michaelyn Culligan, 40, was arrested after the car she was driving got stuck in snow bank. Culligan has resigned from her DARE position, but is still on the force pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

In New York City, a New York prison guard was arrested March 4 after being caught with 15 kilograms of cocaine. Officer Edinson Rosales, 29, was ensnared in a sting operation by the DEA, NYPD, and Department of Corrections investigators, and agreed to carry the cocaine to Detroit for $15,000. He was to return from Motor City with $400,000 in cash proceeds from the sale of the cocaine, for which he was to have earned another $5,000. Now he faces charges of criminal possession of a controlled substance and eight to 20 years in state prison.

In Boston, an MIT police officer was arrested Saturday upon taking possession of a Fedex package containing 340 OxyContin tablets. Fedex workers had become suspicious of the package and notified police it contained a large quantity of prescription drugs. Officer Joseph D'Amelio was in uniform and driving an MIT police cruiser when he went to pick up the pills -- and Boston police were waiting for him. He is now charged with trafficking more than a hundred grams of OxyContin, for which he faces a mandatory minimum 10-year prison sentence if convicted.

In New York City, a former Customs and Border Protection supervisor at JFK International Airport pleaded guilty March 12 to charges relating to bribery and drug importation. Walter Golembiowksi, 66, was arrested during a long-term investigation into the trafficking of large quantities of hashish, other drugs, and other contraband into the US through JFK. The feds seized more than 600 pounds of hash and arrested 60 people involved in the ring. Golembiowski was caught on tape on multiple occasions accepting bribes from co-conspirators to allow illegal drugs and counterfeit goods to pass through Customs without inspection. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import narcotics, conspiracy to commit bribery, and conspiracy to commit bribery during an undercover sting operation (who knew?). He's looking at up to 50 years in prison.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

From murder most foul to ripping off Crimestoppers, our corrupt cops run the gamut this week. Let's get to it:

evidence locker
In New York City, a former NYPD narc who resigned last year in the face of corruption charges was arrested Monday in the shooting death of his ex-girlfriend. Former officer Jerry Bowens, 43, was one of five officers arrested last year in a scandal in which they were accused of taking drugs and cash they had seized and using it to pay a confidential informant. After those arrests, the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office dismissed charges or vacated convictions in 183 cases involving those officers. That investigation is continuing, but probably now means little to Bowens, who is facing a murder charge.

In Philadelphia, a jailed former Philadelphia police officer was charged March 3 with plotting from his jail cell to assault two suspected drug dealers he believed were cooperating with authorities against him. Former officer Malik Snell is in federal detention awaiting retrial on charges he participated in an attempted robbery of a drug house and ripped off other drug dealers. He is now accused of threatening "to inflict bodily injury" on the two men he suspected were government witnesses. He also is accused of stealing $40,000 in cash at gunpoint from one of the men.

In Vivian, Louisiana, a Vivian police officer was arrested last Friday on charges he bought a stolen gun on the street and sold it back to a drug dealer when he found out it was stolen. Officer James Arthur, 34, went down after one of four rifles reported stolen in nearby Shreveport in March 2008 turned up in a drug raid in November. The Caddo Parish Sheriff's Department investigated and found out that Arthur had bought the gun, a Bushmaster XM15 assault rifle worth $1,250, for $300 on the street, but had then resold it to a "known drug dealer" after checking a national firearms registry and seeing it listed as stolen.

In Erie, Pennsylvania, a former Erie police lieutenant was sentenced March 4 for repeatedly stealing cocaine from the department evidence locker. Robert Liebel, 47, had pleaded guilty in January to nine misdemeanors for the 2007 and 2008 thefts. He was sentenced to at least 77 days in prison and between nine and 22 months on house arrest, plus three years probation. Liebel admitted stealing the coke for his personal use.

In Lebanon, Ohio, a Warren Correctional Institution guard was charged March 5 with trying to sneak 200 grams of marijuana into the prison. Guard Stephen Howard, 49, was arrested two days earlier after being caught trying to smuggle the dope inside hollowed-out markers and a Subway sandwich. He faces charges of attempting to convey drugs onto the grounds of a detention facility and possession of criminal tools, both felonies.

In Jacksonville, Florida, a Jacksonville Police narcotics detective was fired Wednesday over his role in a Crimestoppers hot-line scam. Detective James Narcise was accused of providing inside information on the location of criminals to a female friend, who would then use it to collect the reward money. The department apparently took that offense more seriously than his fatal shooting of an 80-year-old man during a drug sting in 2007. He was cleared of any wrongdoing in that case.

Drug War Issues

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