Summary of Responses to the Hoover Law Enforcement Summit, Stanford, May 9-10, 1995

prepared by Joseph D. McNamara, May 16, 1995 50 Top law enforcement officials attended. Twenty six were police chiefs, (Some jurisdictions use the term commissioner or director.) Three sheriffs attended and two Chief Probation Officers. The remaining participants were either command officers or retired police chiefs still active in law enforcement.
  • 90% of those who completed an evaluation form (N38) at the end of the conference did not support the War on Drugs!
  • All who completed the evaluation believed that more treatment, prevention and education efforts would be more likely to reduce drug abuse than more arrests and prison sentences.
  • All thirty-eight respondents endorsed the appointment of a Blue Ribbon Commission to evaluate the Drug War and to study alternative methods to control drugs.
Perhaps the most striking indication of the importance of this conference was that 35 of the 38 respondents stated that the conference had changed their view of the drug war. (18 Slightly, 17 significantly.) All of the evaluators found the conference worthwhile and would be willing to attend another such conference. They were also unanimous in asking to be on a mailing list for articles and information concerning drug enforcement issues. Some sample comments:
  • "Gave time to reflect on the history, [of drug enforcement] the present condition, and the future. ...useful to have program repeated so others could attend."
  • "The materials provided and prescriptions given by very credible individuals certainly have caused me to remove my blinders and step off the drug war bandwagon to review and analyze this complex issue more objectively."
  • "It [the conference] gave a public airing of some of my private thoughts on drug policy."
  • "...drug substance abuse is a health problem and not a crime problem. ...others need to be part of it [analyzing drug control.]"
  • "Very Informative. ...real change will occur from and by the community."
  • "Profound discussion about the issue from more than one perspective. I still think we need the social hammer that says that they're [drug users and dealers] wrong."
  • "While I had some intuitive sense of the potential alternative to our current policies, I don't think that I really had an overall understanding of how destructive the "war on drugs" has been on our youth, especially in our minority communities."
  • "It [the conference] clarified and helped crystallize concepts I had been struggling with in law enforcement for some time. The analogy to Vietnam and the drug war is a good one. Law enforcement has been put in a position of fighting a war they are not allowed to win - nor can they win."
  • "The viewpoints/data expressed by the various speakers caused me to examine the issue from an aspect I never had before."
  • "Many of the problems that I am experiencing in my city have been validated [in this conference] with the same problems in other cities. The networking, new ideas by respected members of the profession were very provocative. It is the inner city black on black violence that is the issue for me. We certainly have not been successful for a long while fighting the "Drug War." It's time to keep an open mind and rethink the issues."
  • "I am intrigued by the concepts of harm reduction and making it a health, rather than criminal problem."
  • "[I am] already aware of shortcomings of prohibition."
  • "[You should] set up and hold similar sessions for rank and file officers and for community representatives."
  • "I agree that alternatives must be explored and more dialogue and discussion are necessary for progress. This conference has opened my mind to listen and discuss this issue."
  • "[The conference] made me consider casual users in addition to people who get placed on probation..."
  • "It [the conference] really made me think about what we do as a law enforcement community. Excellent conference. Thank you for inviting me."
  • "[The conference] assisted me in better articulating my position supporting change in our approach. Have subsequent meetings such as this one."
  • "I have agreed with the positions discussed but I now may be more willing to be more public about it. Schedule a followup session."
  • "It provided time to stop and think about what we are doing and the possible alternatives to it."
  • "I had already come to the conclusion that the Drug War was a failure and that it has damaged our country. We need alternatives."
  • "[The conference] broadened my view of different aspects of drug policy. ...need to be addressed: 1. The failure of our prison systems to rehabilitate. 2. The failure of the medical community to come with viable programs for drug treatment."
  • "Like most police officers I know how drugs have ruined lives and broken up families. Strict enforcement does not eliminate drug use, the demand is too great!"
  • "It [the conference] only reaffirmed what I already believed, that we need to change our approach. we must have the courage to try and effect a positive change!"
  • "It [the conference] gave me a broader perspective on the adverse impact of the W.O.D., esp. as to guns and violence."
  • "Speakers presented a very reasonable and well thought out selection of options. ...police have become a clearing house for societal ills. We must be responsible and promote that [community] guidance."
  • "This is the first time I've heard other law enforcement teachers talk about changing what we do in law enforcement with respect to drug enforcement. I have felt more preventive efforts were needed for many years but have been concerned about stating it publicly. We don't need more cops and jails!!"
  • "New data was presented that warrants further study and further discussion."
  • "New viewpoints. Different discussion of options."
  • "Presentation of much valuable information."
  • "On drugs: We have not won. We are not winning. We will not win using current strategies."
  • "exposed to new ideas and new information"
  • "Good information. The compelling thoughts that this is a medical problem that law enforcement is being asked to fix. If we focused more on the effects of behavior that drug abuse engenders (as with drunk driving) we might have more success in making our cities safer."
  • "I came prepared to be skeptical, unconvinced that there was practical purpose for me at this conference. In fact, I was concerned that by attending it would appear that I had adopted a sympathy towards drug decriminalization. ...I am most impressed with the caliber and intelligence of the speakers. I have not been exposed to what I expected an extremist point of view. Instead, the approaches are and have been deliberate and rational. I am interested in further development."
  • "[The conference was an] opportunity to focus very specifically on this issue with well founded information. It's clear we have to change this approach. Like Prohibition it is not working."
Summary: 
The degree of skepticism about the drug war among top cops is surprising to many (though not to us).
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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