Share this with your friends
As a career police officer and an Executive Board Member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of law enforcement professionals opposed to the War on Drugs, I have long believed that one of the most corrupting influences in policing is the enforcement of our drug laws. A lead story on Politico recently shouted “DEA agents had ‘sex parties’ with prostitutes, watchdog says.”
As I read multiple news sources on the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) prostitution scandal the COPS show ditty, “Bad boys, bad boys whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?” made me think of the many men and women whose lives have been devastated by the futile drug war by an agency that I believe has gone rogue. In behavior that clearly shows the belief that agents are above the law I am once again reminded of the hubris of not just individual officers, but of an entire organization whose only existence can be justified by maintaining a failed drug policy. In a glaring example of mismanagement in the disciplinary process as well as a failure to supervise, I would suggest that the ultimate head on the block should be the DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart.
According to Politico, Special Agents from the DEA engaged in sex parties in Colombia with prostitutes hired by drug cartels. While they were having sex, their issued weapons, and personal property were being protected by Colombian police officers. Other allegations included that Supervisory Special Agents (SSA) were provided money, gifts, and weapons by cartel members. Given the serious nature of the allegations I would have assumed that at least some of the agents who participated would have been terminated, as were the Secret Service agents who also partied with prostitutes in Cartagena. Yet according to the inspector general report released by the Department of Justice they were not.
This double standard is not surprising, but made worse by the lack of cooperation and withholding of information by the DEA during the internal investigation. In a justification for his actions, one DEA agent told investigators that prostitution is “considered a part of the local culture” resulting in Eric Holder issuing a memo to remind all employees to refrain from any form of soliciting, procuring or engaging in the commercial sex trade. Employees were not aware prior to this incident that engaging in this type of action is not merely unprofessional but unethical as well? Really?
This latest scandal though is not unforeseen given the nature and culture of the law enforcement profession that supports a ‘work-hard, play-hard’ cowboy mentality in the field of narcotics enforcement. This mentality has been supported by the language of war and is displayed on the patches designed and proudly worn by DEA agents throughout the years. In a recent article by Christopher Ingraham on the imagery and meaning of the privately produced DEA patches, he interviewed a DEA representative who stated, “you’ll see the specter of death because drug abuse is dangerous. It reflects the dangers of drug abuse and the violence associated with drug trafficking.”
This statement reflects the continued groupthink mentality surrounding the DEA and its lack of reliance on research and evidence based best practices that have consistently shown that it’s prohibition that fuels death, disease and crime not just in the U.S. but outside our borders as well. Their rigid prohibitionist stance may play well in certain places but they are increasingly showing their irrelevance as they continue to make headlines that sadly reflects how out of touch their organizational culture is with America. From outlandish statements that warn of “stoned bunny rabbits” to the head of the DEA’s inability to distinguish the science behind the efficacy of medical marijuana, even the DEA’s own former brass are casting aspersions at the agencies inability to evolve. Gary Hale, a Non-Resident Fellow at Rice Baker Institute is a retired DEA Unit Chief who stated in a policy brief written last year that the agency should “…adopt and adhere to the directives of the legislature and stop clinging to archaic ideologies that are counter productive and seen as authoritative and repressive.”
This breach of the trust is reflective of the ‘bad boy’ culture that emanates from the top down where management supports criminal behavior and has forgotten its proper role. I have often written about the Machiavellian effect of the drug war on policing and how it has fueled corruption. This scandal, as so many others is not a salacious tale about sex and drugs, but about the failures of drug prohibition and how power corrupts. The DEA, like the drug war has outlived its usefulness. The agency’s handling of not just this scandal, but also many others since its inception reflects their inability to manage itself. The time has come to dismantle an agency more concerned for its own power then for supporting the will of the American people and the rule of law. Instead of Cops singing the ‘Bad Boy’ theme in its quest for criminals isn’t time for us as citizens and activists to adopt it and to use it to dismantle not just this agency, but the drug war itself. Here I’ll start , “Bad boys, whatcha gonna do, when the American people come for you?”
Feature image: Nick Dial/LEAP