Today's story starts June 18th, 1971. President Nixon gave a press conference. It was a day after his administration had sent a special report to Congress on drug abuse and addiction. We were still involved in Vietnam and the years of the heaviest involvement had just passed. President Nixon's use of words invokes a war mindset in a global fight against illegal drugs and drug use.
And we went to war. The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 set the guidelines for how drugs were scheduled and controlled. The Drug Enforcement Agency was created in 1973. On average, we have spent over $50 billion every year on this effort. We involved the CIA and the military in drug interdiction efforts overseas. We sprayed herbicides over large areas of Central and South America.
You have be 60 or so to remember when policemen looked like this.
I am not blaming the officers for what happened. The various levels of government hire and train the police forces. They arm them, set the policies, and enforce those policies or not. And they militarized them. From uniforms to weapons to mindset.
Mindset. If it's police vs. not-police, then you get the Thin Blue Line. You get "any force is acceptable as long we all go home at the end of the shift". You get a bunker mentality where everyone covers for everyone else. You get to the point where the rights of the citizens you are sworn to serve are no longer a consideration.
And if it's no longer the police vs. criminals and now it's become the police against everyone else, what does the "everyone else" do? If the consent of the governed is dependent on a just and lawful government, what happens to the fabric of society the agents of that government are not seen as just?
Because when a cop is kneeling on the neck of a subdued and handcuffed suspect and the other cops stand by and let it happen while people are filming and pleading with the cop to move and the last words the man says are "I can't breathe", justice has left the stage.
Forget the race of the involved parties. This is tyranny. If that was my son, or yours, that had died that way, what would our response be? The only way it would have looked worse was if it had been his boot on George Floyd's neck. This is not an isolated incident. Minneapolis police have used that same tactic to the point of people being made unconscious 44 times since 2015.
It is time to demilitarize the police. It is time to do away with no knock warrants. It is time to do away with civil forfeiture. It is time to hold the police to the same standards of human behavior we hold ourselves to. It is time to retrain the police about the citizens they serve. It is time to find a higher calling than fighting a lost war on drugs. If we fail, the last tattered remnants of that fabric are going to burn.
The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I'm saying? We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.
— John Ehrlichman, Harper's Magazine 1994