Views from the Front

In Police news, Spring 1994

George Schultz, the former Secretary of State for Reagan, says legalization would destroy dealers profits and remove their incentive to get young people addicted. He concedes, however, that such a proposal is unpopular.

"Sometimes at a reception or cocktail party I advance these views and people head for somebody else," says Schultz. "Everybody is scared to talk about it. No politician wants to say what I just said, not for a minute."

Patrick Murphy:

We over rely on law enforcement and interdiction. Only about 30% of our spending is on treatment, prevention and education. In Canada the balance is about the exact opposite.

Politicians get in a bidding war over who can talk the toughest. It started when I was police commissioner of New York when Rockefeller was governor.

A lot of people have gone to prison since then and drug abuse has gotten worse. I think NAVPO's effort to show police officers another way to look at this issue is a commendable and an enlightened approach.

Jerry V. Williams, Former Chief of Police, Washington D.C.: Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders' suggestion that we study the idea of decriminalizing illicit drugs took me back to the early 1970s, when people were talking seriously about decriminalizing marijuana. One private conversation from that time stuck in my mind. "Personally, I don't think that marijuana is any more dangerous than my favorite psychoactive drug, the martini," the statement went. " But I'm afraid that decriminalization would send a signal to young people that it is all right to use it."

The words are not exact, for I did not make notes, but that is the crux of what President Nixon said to me some two decades ago. Here we are 20 years later, and I wonder if anyone received the signal Mr. Nixon was talking about. In 1992, local and state law enforcement agencies reported nearly a million arrests for drugs violations. Drug offenders make up one-third of the felony convictions in the state courts. In a nation where three-quarters of all robberies go unsolved and where violent offenders go free on bail awaiting trial dates on overburdened court dockets, we choose to clog the system with drug offenders.