Prepared by Joseph D. McNamara,
May 16, 1995
50 Top law enforcement officials attended. Twenty six were police chiefs.
(Some jurisdictions use the term commissioner or director.) Three sheriffs
attended and two Chief Probation Officers. The remaining participants were
either command officers or retired police chiefs still active in law enforcement.
90% OF THOSE WHO COMPLETED AN EVALUATION FORM (N38) AT
THE END OF THE CONFERENCE DID NOT SUPPORT THE WAR ON DRUGS!
- All who completed the evaluation believed that more treatment, prevention
and education efforts would be more likely to reduce drug abuse than more
arrests and prison sentences.
- All thirty-eight respondents endorsed the appointment of a Blue Ribbon
Commission to evaluate the Drug War and to study alternative methods to
- Perhaps the most striking indication of the importance of this conference
was that 35 of the 38 respondents stated that the conference had changed
their view of the drug war. (18 slightly, 17 significantly.)
- All of the evaluators found the conference worthwhile and would be
willing to attend another such conference. They were also unanimous in
asking to be on a mailing list for articles and information concerning
drug enforcement issues.
Some sample comments:
- "Gave time to reflect on the history, [of drug enforcement] the
present condition, and the future. ...useful to have program repeated so
others could attend."
- "The materials provided and prescriptions given by very credible
individuals certainly have caused me to remove my blinders and step off
the drug war bandwagon to review and analyze this complex issue more objectively."
- "It [the conference] gave a public airing of some of my private
thoughts on drug policy."
- "...drug substance abuse is a health problem and not a crime problem.
...others need to be part of it [analyzing drug control.]"
- "Very Informative. ...real change will occur from and by the community."
- "Profound discussion about the issue from more than one perspective.
I still think we need the social hammer that says that they're [drug users
and dealers] wrong."
- "While I had some intuitive sense of the potential alternatives
to our current policies, I don't think that I really had an overall understanding
of how destructive the "war on drugs" has been on our youth,
especially in our minority communities."
- "It [the conference] clarified and helped crystallize concepts
I had been struggling with in law enforcement for some time. The analogy
to Vietnam and the drug war is a good one. Law enforcement has been put
in a position of fighting a war they are not allowed to win -- nor can
- "The viewpoints/data expressed by the various speakers caused
me to examine the issue from an aspect I never had before."
- "Many of the problems that I am experiencing in my city have been
validated [in this conference] with the same problems in other cities.
The networking, new ideas by respected members of the profession were very
provocative. It is the inner city black on black violence that is the issue
for me. We certainly have not been successful for a long while fighting
the 'Drug War.' It's time to keep an open mind and rethink the issues."
- "I am intrigued by the concepts of harm reduction and making it
a health, rather than criminal problem."
- "[I am] already aware of shortcomings of prohibition."
- "[You should] set up and hold similar sessions for rank and file
officers and for community representatives."
- "I agree that alternatives must be explored and more dialogue
and discussion are necessary for progress. This conference has opened my
mind to listen and discuss this issue."
- "[The conference] made me consider casual users in addition to
people who get placed on probation..."
- "It [the conference] really made me think about what we do as
a law enforcement community. Excellent conference. Thank you for inviting
- "[The conference] assisted me in better articulating my position
supporting change in our approach. Have subsequent meetings such as this
one." "I have agreed with the positions discussed but I now may
be more willing to be more public about it. Schedule a followup session."
- "It provided time to stop and think about what we are doing and
the possible alternatives to it."
- "I had already come to the conclusion that the Drug War was a
failure and that it has damaged our country. We need alternatives."
- "[The conference] broadened my view of different aspects of drug
policy. ...need to be addressed: 1. The failure of our prison systems to
rehabilitate. 2. The failure of the medical community to come with viable
programs for drug treatment."
- "Like most police officers I know how drugs have ruined lives
and broken up families. Strict enforcement does not eliminate drug use,
the demand is too great!"
- "It [the conference] only reaffirmed what I already believed,
that we need to change our approach. We must have the courage to try and
effect a positive change!"
- "It [the conference] gave me a broader perspective on the adverse
impact of the W.O.D., esp. as to guns and violence."
- "Speakers presented a very reasonable and well thought out selection
of options. ...police have become a clearing house for societal ills. We
must be responsible and promote that [community] guidance."
- "This is the first time I've heard other law enforcement leaders
talk about changing what we do in law enforcement with respect to drug
enforcement. I have felt more preventive efforts were needed for many years
but have been concerned about stating it publicly. We don't need more cops
- "New data was presented that warrants further study and further
- "New viewpoints. Different discussion of options."
- "Presentation of much valuable information."
- "On drugs: We have not won. We are not winning. We will not win
using current strategies."
- "Exposed to new ideas and new information."
- "Good information. The compelling thoughts that this is a medical
problem that law enforcement is being asked to fix. If we focused more
on the effects of behavior that drug abuse engenders (as with drunk driving)
we might have more success in making our cities safer."
- "I came prepared to be skeptical, unconvinced that there was practical
purpose for me at this conference. In fact, I was concerned that by attending
it would appear that I had adopted a sympathy towards drug decriminalization.
...I am most impressed with the caliber and intelligence of the speakers.
I have not been exposed to what I expected -- an extremist point of view.
Instead, the approaches are and have been deliberate and rational. I am
interested in further development."
- "[The conference was an] opportunity to focus very specifically
on this issue with well founded information. It's clear we have to change
this approach. Like Prohibition it is not working."