We call the police in times of trouble. Often we are thankful for their protection and services when we have been victimized. We see them directing traffic on busy street corners, or walking the beat; we also see them at rallies and protests keeping an eye on things, making sure they don’t get out of hand. Cops are also the ones who close our dispensaries, and force patients to the black market for their medicine. Cops can mean trouble for those of us in the movement to legalize cannabis, but sometimes, cops are the ones creating the trouble with the law.
In Apr. of this year, Vern White, Ottawa’s Police Chief, when answering a question about decriminalization from The Citizen stated “If this is about, ‘we don’t want people to have a criminal record for possession of marijuana,’ that message is a good message, because I don’t want them to have a criminal record for possession of marijuana either.”
While his remarks also circulated the same tired propaganda about marijuana increasing ones risks for psychosis, and that today’s pot is sevenfold stronger than the pot from the 60s (therefore dangerous), I consider it a huge victory for the move- ment when a police officer recognizes our current system is failing and speaks honestly about drug policy.
Chief White is not alone. The Canadian Police Association—the organization representing Canada’s front-line police officers—has also said it would be willing to further discuss the marijuana debate. In fact, an organization exists to provide a platform for those in Law and Justice to share their thoughts on our failed drug policies. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (L.E.A.P) hosts an impressive list of speakers from around the world. Speakers from L.E.A.P are all former or current members of the law enforcement or justice commu- nities, although membership is open to the general public.
If this is a war, then no doubt, police would be considered to be on the front lines. With all the people out there sharing their personal views, I am sure that the public, in general, listen a little more carefully when the individual speaking is an experienced officer.
The chairman of the Ottawa Police board Eli El-Chantiry gave White the opportunity to clarify his remarks at a board meeting the day his comments were published in The Citizen. While White seemed to repeat pretty much what he had said in the published article, El-Chantiry finished off the exchange by saying “My short version was police in this country don’t make law, police enforce law, and the discussion has to take place with the people we elect in our government to make those decisions.”
Hopefully this was the worst of what White will have to face for his thoughts, and honest view on the situation. Other officers, have not been so lucky.
Barry Cooper, one of the more recognized “rogue officers gone good” has done a lot to help make the world aware of the waste that prohibition is. As a former narcotics agent his, Never Get Busted video series caught the attention of media and counter-culture alike. The videos shared information such as “how to hide your stash” and “never get raided” based on Cooper’s first-hand experiences during the eight years he served Texas commuities.
More recently, Cooper’s organization Kopbusters set its attention on busting bad cops. His “set-ups” have caught more than one bad cop. His latest “sting” in Oct. 2009 involved Liberty Hill Police Captain George Nassour. Camera crew on hand, Cooper called in a “suspicious package” and waited for Captain Nassour to take the bait. Earlier, Cooper had packed a carry all with items including $45, what appeared to be a crack pipe, and a list of names designed to look like a customer list.
Footage shows Nassour, after a second call in from Cooper, throwing the bag and its contents into the trash. When the Kopbusters team retrieves the bag, all the contents are still in it—except the $45. When Cooper shares the video with Liberty Hill Captain Randal Williams, he seems concerned, and appreciative of Kopbusters’ work.
In Mar. 2010, Kopbusters’ head- quarters was raided by police. While, initially, there was some confusion as to why Kopbusters was raided, it turns out that Coo- per was charged with the misdemeanour offence of knowingly initiating, communicating, or circulating a report of a present, past, or future bombing, fire, offence, or other emergency that he knows is false or baseless… (Tesaz penal code 42.06, In relation to his Kopbusters stings.
It is unusual for a misdemeanour offence to end up as a raid on a home. Ac- cording to Maury D. Beaulier, an attorney in St. Louis Park, MN, “In my 19 years of experience with criminal defense matters, a search warrant for a misdemeanor charge is certainly unusual. It indicates to me that this is a targeted investigation. It may be targeted because it is believed to be a part of a greater crime or conspiracy, or, perhaps, because there are political motivations at work.”
The raid on Kopbusters’ headquarters netted the cops less than a gram of pot, for which both Barry Cooper and his wife Candi were arrested, and had forced to make bail. Candi’s youngest son, who was seven at the time, was sent to his natural father for a short visit. Child Protective Services (CPS) showed up at the Coopers’s door partly spurred on by the natural father’s assertions that Candi and Barry are teaching their children to not trust the government, among other things. While CPS cleared them as good parents, the natural father is now fighting Candi and Barry for custody.
Back here in Canada, we have also had one of our boys in blue from Vancouver arrested for pot—dealing pot. In Apr. of this year, Peter Hodson was arrested, jailed, and within hours lost his job due to drug dealing allegations on and off the job. Hodson was charged with trafficking in marijuana, two counts of breach of trust, one for selling drugs, and the other for the illegal use of a police data base. In addition, he was charged with break and enter with the intent to commit extortion.
Hodson, 31, has been with the Vancouver Police for nearly five years. The police were first made aware of Hodson’s activities during the Olympics in Feb. As many as 30 police officers were involved in the “covert” operation that led to Hodson’s arrest, including investigators from the VPD’s professional standards unit, major crime section, and other “experts” within the force; as well as “senior investigative oversight” and “specialized units” from the RCMP.
While chief White may have got in trouble for sharing his thoughts, and Barry Cooper in trouble for his attempts to flush out bad cops from the system in Texas, Hodson deserves little respect for what he has (allegedly) done. He was an officer out for himself, dealing and using police resources for his personal gain. I really have to wonder if a drug dealing cop uses his inside knowledge and status to scare off the competition. How much of his competition ended up in jail, and how often did he steer the police force away from his co-accused Oscar Lapitan?
In the end, the lesson here is that cops—like the rest of the world—are good, bad, and sometimes even heros in waiting. While we may spend a lot of time blaming the police for what they do, it is important to remember that their job, like a soldier’s, is not to interpret the law (or orders), only to enforce it as it stands. However, educat- ing a police officer about the truth of prohibition, and getting them in touch with organizations such as L.E.A.P can create a powerful ally who will still have to arrest you if you light that doobie, but in his off time will talk about why he shouldn’t have to.
Learn more about officers fighting the law at <www.leap.cc> and more about Kopbusters Barry and Candi Cooper at <www.nevergetbusted.com>