Could the Next Drug Czar be William Bratton?

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The Politico looks at rumored cabinet selections if Obama is elected and identifies Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton as a possible choice for drug czar. Of course, the election isn’t over yet and this is just a rumor, the origins of which we know nothing about. So I don’t want to go too far here, but if true, this could become big news and a source of concern for reformers.

Bratton is a proponent of the "broken windows" theory of policing which prioritizes enforcement of minor offenses in pursuit of a trickle-up effect on crime control. He served as New York City police commissioner in the 1990’s, overseeing a dramatic increase in petty marijuana arrests. On medical marijuana, Bratton has claimed to be "totally supportive," but has shown concern about profiteering by dispensary operators. While his views on medical marijuana would appear to be an improvement over previous drug czars, the question is whether he’d retain his respect for California’s laws after moving to Washington, D.C. to lead the federal drug war.

Having said all that, I believe it’s quite likely that other names will emerge if Obama wins tomorrow and I’m hopeful that his call for "shifting the model" in our drug policy would mean looking beyond law-enforcement circles when it comes to managing our national approach to drug abuse. In fact, it's really kind of hard to understand what he meant if not that.

(This blog post was published by's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

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Drug WarRant's picture

Law Enforcement Circles

If he doesn't want to look beyond law-enforcement circles, he could always go with Norm Stamper...

By the way,

Stamper, an advocate for drug legalization, is out because by law the director

(12) shall . . . oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance (in any form) that-- 1. is listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812); and 2. has not been approved for use for medical purposes by the Food and Drug Administration;

So, if he were sworn in as director, he'd have to do a complete 180.


yes but cabinet positions

yes but cabinet positions and their codes of conduct are determined by the president and his executive orders. so possibly this could be changed.


We're not going to get Stamper

We're not going to get Stamper or anybody like that, so quit dreaming.

Bratton, although he's not as strong on reform as I would like, is a decent, honorable guy.

An example of this:

The epidemic [of "testilying"] is conceded even among the highest ranks of law enforcement. For example, William F. Bratton, who has headed the police departments of New York City and Boston, has confirmed that "testilying" is a "real problem that needs to be addressed." He also placed some of the responsibility squarely at the feet of prosecutors:

When a prosecutor is really determined to win, the trial prep procedure may skirt along the edge of coercing or leading the police witness. In this way, some impressionable young cops learn to tailor their testimony to the requirements of the law.[13]

He took some heat from the cops' unions for this and similar statements. It's hard to imagine anybody in the current crowd with that kind of integrity.

That being said, I would be happy if Obama (if he, as looks likely, wins the presidency) chooses somebody from the public-health sector as the next czar. In the short history of the ONDCP, no president has thus far seen fit to nominate anybody with a background in public health.


The next drug czar may be in that position for eight years

We are not going to shut down ONDCP before the next President selects somebody for the position of drug czar. Reformers can at least influence the selection process so we don't have another John Walters or Barry McCaffrey.
If you are going to treat addiction and abuse as medical problem then it makes since to select somebody with a medical background.

However, I would like somebody with a solid sociological/criminal justice background who thinks like Norm Stamper in a deputy "drug czar" position. Rather than just funding research on the drug consumer dynamic of market, we need to conduct research into the distributors of illicit drugs and the limitations of a "handcuffs and guns" policy in addressing that supply side dynamic of the market.

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