Monday, June 8, 2009


ANOTHER BARK IN THE DARK: Anthony Sommer’s book KPD Blue (see left rail) continues be a Kaua`i best seller and to draw readers to this space with another dozen or so perusing its pages just this weekend.

In addition to exposing the corruption in the Kaua`i Police Department, the book details the political machinations that led to the removal of two chiefs and the no-so-coincidental resultant hiring of current chief Darryl Perry whose promoters saw to it that Chief KC Lum and Police Commission Chair Michael Ching were purged after Lum originally beat out Perry for the job.

The result for the island has been that, while Lum and his predecessor George Freitas were adherents of progressive tenets of modern policing who understood and kept up with the dynamics of the changing face of law enforcement, Perry remains something of a dinosaur.

And when it comes to drug policy Perry seems incapable of examining national studies and trends and seems entrenched in his own provincial rigid views rooted in the 1950’s if not the 1930’s marijuana scare campaigns.

There are few left who won’t admit that the war on drugs has been an utter failure. Drugs are more prevalent than ever, our jails are overflowing with non violent users and the streets are littered with bodies that are the result, not of the drug use itself but of the war being waged.

The rational examination of the absurd circular logic of “all drugs are bad because they are illegal and they are illegal because they are bad” has led to a movement including most of the past national “drug czars” and top leaders in law enforcement calling for an end to the war and a more rational harm reduction approach including the elimination of programs like D.A.R.E. which refuses to distinguish between more innocuous drugs like marijuana and destructive drugs like crystal methamphetamine or “ice”.

Studies, including a 2003 US General Accounting Office report, have shown that lumping all drugs together for the purposes of demonizing them equally in anti-drug programs like D.A.R.E has actually caused the use of more dangerous drugs and even related deaths when kids find out that they’ve been lied to about marijuana and assume the warnings about the more lethal drugs are equally untrue.

Worse still has been the appropriation of scarce funds to engage in these marijuana eradication programs which not only waste money and destroy medicine used for medical treatment but make scarce a substance far less harmful than “meth” which kids who can’t get marijuana any more flock to.

While it is certainly preferable that kids don’t ingest any drugs- alcohol and tobacco included- the undeniable fact is they do and always will and if we don’t engage in a little “harm reduction” we’re not just whistling in the grave yard but actually causing the rise in the use of the more harmful drugs.

Those whose ignorance perpetuates that increased harm should be the ones who are held responsible for the results.

Enter Perry who in his column in the local newspaper yesterday unequivocally joins the team of kid-killers who cling to outdated and outmoded ideas.

Presented in a Q&A format, yesterday’s “On The Beat” column was as usual characterized by another of those quite obviously solicited “Q’s” along the lines of “you’re so wise and good- please tell us how others could possibly be so stupid?”

In it, “Greg” asked.

Q: Recently there have been several articles in the newspapers about marijuana. The first was in the Honolulu Advertiser on May 25, “War on marijuana a waste of time, money,” and then the next day there was an opinion in The Garden Island, “Alcohol vs. marijuana,” but the worst one was The Garden Island editorial on May 31, “Red light for Green Harvest.” Then just the other day, “Don’t fear the reefer.” It seems as though you guys are being blasted from all angles for doing your job.

It also seems to me that the stupid editorial by The Garden Island didn’t help matters any. I supposed we should just let all the druggies take over. Sorry about my rant, but I’m just frustrated. Well, I want to get it from the horse’s mouth, where do you stand on this?

Predictably Perry responded

I certainly understand your frustration, as I have experienced those same feelings throughout my police career. The comments and criticism don’t change just the faces and names who believe that they know better... I do agree that it sent the wrong message to our community.

The problem is that it’s not a matter of “believing” anything or sending some kind of “message” except on the part of Perry who can’t seem to digest the facts that have emerged, especially the differences between substances.

It’s pretty scary to think about what it takes to say this but this sentence tells you all you need to know about what Perry thinks.

Drugs destroy families, whether it’s marijuana, crystal methamphetamine, cocaine, ecstasy, or alcohol.

Marijuana does not destroy families. It is a medically accepted treatment for a wide range of maladies and is used responsibly and recreationally by tens of millions of Americans. To lump all those drugs together with marijuana is an absurd constriction that doesn’t jibe with reality.

But Perry seems unable or unwilling to grasp that the data is in and that marijuana is a fairly innocuous substance which when used in a responsible manner has no long term ill effects.

To his credit he does acknowledge that treatment is a key to harm reduction for those who use dangerous drugs. But he still demands money for marijuana interdiction due to his inability to distinguish between harmful and innocuous substances.

He writes

Do we stop eradicating marijuana because the numbers were low on this mission? That is exactly what commercial growers would want so that they could continue to sell dope to your children. Or, do we continue in our efforts? Remember that in prior missions we eradicated thousands of marijuana plants that did not find there way into homes and the brain cells of individuals cruising the same highways as you do...

We have not lost the war on drugs and it is not a failed policy...

The contorted logic and “brain cell” warning are reminiscent of the reefer madness campaigns of the distant past. Yet Perry seems stuck in just that “boogey-man” model.

His conclusion, based on that illogic, is to continue to throw money down the rathole of marijuana eradication programs even criticizing those on the Big Island who put a stop to the practice.

Perry concentrates on a recent reported $27,000 that destroyed 75 plants asking of it was worth that much for so little. But he fails to ask the bigger question of whether no matter what the result is this a wise use of scarce funds.

What’s more he fails to mention that the $75,000 is a small fraction of the approximately quarter million a year that our county accepts from the federal government to fight the “marijuana scourge”.

And that doesn’t take into account the time that police officers put into the effort. What isn’t widely reported is that police in each of the state’s four counties have a contingent of officers who go to the other three islands to assist in the eradication efforts there, taking them off the streets and away from the efforts to stop methamphetamine use and violent crime.

Perry writes

I also disagree with the suggestion that the citizens on the Big Island got it right by deprioritizing marijuana and not accepting federal funds to conduct eradication missions. I can only imagine the negative impact this decision will have in the long-term.

Fortunately, the Drug Enforcement Administration will continue its efforts with the assistance of county police.

What is most dangerous here is that Perry’s attitude- which is shared by other island PD’s- seems to forget who is running things in this country... at least theoretically.

Just as the political apparatus of a democracy maintains civilian control of the military so do the civilian police commissions provide for oversight of our paramilitary constabularies.

If nothing else “KPD Blue” describes the lead up to how, in Perry’s case, that civilian control mechanism failed when independent elements of the civilian control were purged and the commission bowed to political pressure born of internal department attempts to control policy.

What we sadly have as a result is Perry- the old soldier whose vision has been warped by too many years in the trenches and too set in his ways, incapable of seeing contemporary reality, caught up in circular reasoning and in fact committing the very atrocities he seeks to end.

No comments: