Philly Cops Turn Criminal

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On Wednesday, six officers with the Philadelphia Narcotics Field Unit have been hit with 26-count indictment for alleged drug dealing, extortion, kidnapping and more. The report states that between February 2006 and November 2012 the officers "stole more than $500,000 in cash, drugs and personal property - all while using extreme force, and falsifying police reports to downplay their takes." It is claimed that the officers stole drugs and money from their targets; any resistance, the report continues, was met with brutal force and fearsome threats.

This most recent indictment comes after a long line of miscarried, failed, or dismissed cases brought against one or all of the officers involved. But, on a larger scale, the Philadelphia incident is just another black mark on the self-defeating War on Drugs, which some argue is what turns a number of good cops bad. 

Law Enforcers Against Prohibition (LEAP) is one interest group comprised of current and former cops taking a vocal opposition to the drug war. LEAP points at the rampant war on drugs, and the exceptions granted to cops to fight drug trafficking, as being major contributors to corruption. 

Legal asset forfeiture"”"in which cops take property from people who have never been charged with a crime, sell it, and use the proceeds for their department's budget""”is one such allowance cops have as a weapon to combat offenders. It's been exploited way past the limits of legality in Tenaha, Texas, where cops were apprehending whatever property motorists had in their cars at the time, or threatening a long and expensive legal tug-o-war. 

Reverse stings are another strategy used by Narc cops that are full of potential for misconduct, and often go awry. Rather than cops setting up a sting to buy drugs, they transact to sell them at a price they find appetizing. The more money on the table, the more firepower both sides bring, the greater the likelihood of a shootout.

So is greed to blame for the corruption plaguing the war on drugs? Well, it sure doesn't help that the kind of money changing hands between drug dealers and buyers is greater than any law enforcers' salaries. Counter-intuitively, the more law enforcement agencies try to throttle the drug rings, the higher the prices rise for those drugs, the more enticing the business of dealing becomes. 

Cops are also asked to go undercover, or ingratiate themselves with informants"“two practices that throw a wrench into the moral framework from the outset. In economics, when government regulators are corrupted by the very sectors or firms they set out to reform, it's called capture. No doubt the same phenomenon occurs when cops get planted in the belly of the beast or buddy up to offenders for tips. 

But can such egregious criminal behavior ever be, in good conscience, explained away or justified, especially by those who've sworn to protect and serve the community against it? Is a war, no matter how heinous, ever a valid pretext for illicit activity? Perhaps the answer to stemming this kind of corruption is in relaxing prohibition; but let's not forget"“one misguided approach to justice does not excuse others' injustices.   
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