Pubdate: Sat, 21 Nov 1998
Source: San Antonio Express-News (TX)
Copyright: 1998 San Antonio Express-News
Author: Jerry Epstein, president, Drug Policy Forum of Texas, Houston


Thanks to the Express-News editorial board for acknowledging in its Nov. 7
editorial, "Houston police shooting demands public scrutiny," the broader
implications of officers shooting another innocent victim of the drug war,
Pedro Oregon Navarro.

Sadly, the victims are members of the poorer minority communities at a rate
five times greater than their proportional involvement with drugs. These
things would plague us less if we had not so eroded our Constitution in the
futile quest for a "drug-free America."

Last year, U.S. District Judge John Kane Jr. said in a front-page article in
the Denver Post:

"If there is a key to understanding America's criminal justice problem, it
lies in recognizing that the war on drugs has been lost and never was
winnable. In order to feed the war machine, we have sacrificed our courts,
prisons and law enforcement. More importantly, we have surrendered many of
the freedoms that made us the freest society in history. Every judge knows
or should know, that the war on drugs has eviscerated the protections the
Constitution guarantees against government invasion and seizure of our homes
and property."

In 1936, August Vollmer, an American police chief, in a speech to the
International Association of Chiefs of Police, said "Drug addiction is not a
police problem; it never has been and never can be solved by policemen. It
is first and last a medical problem."

We've paid a terrible price for ignoring sage advice, and the toll will
mount unless we rethink the drug war.

Jerry Epstein, president, Drug Policy Forum of Texas, Houston

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Checked-by: Don Beck