By Captain Opinion
OCTOBER 25, 1999: I generally like cops and law enforcement people. They do incredibly important work. Not everyone can live with the awful burden of putting their lives on the line every day, dealing with the scummiest of the scummy and having to give tickets to people who forget to register their cars on time.
As a community we should do everything possible to keep the morale of cops high. They should have the finest equipment, decent salaries, opportunities for advancement and, to cheer them up when they get bored and depressed, lots of hapless citizens to club.
But their high morale shouldn't always come at the expense of civil liberties, the Constitution and common sense. Unfortunately, in the past couple of decades that's exactly what has happened. It has happened because of our so-called war on drugs.
The effect of this war has been to turn 80 million Americans into criminals, stuff our prisons full and erode our civil liberties like they have never been eroded before.
So I cringed a couple of weeks ago when New Mexico Public Safety Secretary Darren White whined that Gov. Gary Johnson's call for drug legalization has hurt the morale of cops and other law enforcers.
"It's a major morale killer," White complained. "These guys feel [Johnson] doesn't appreciate what we are doing."
I'm sure that Johnson's call to legalize marijuana and heroin has sapped the morale of law enforcers around the state. But before White weeps in public again about the terrible morale problem cops are facing and the terrible thing Johnson has done, he should stop to think about what the drug war has done to the morale of regular Americans and to the country.
According to the Constitution, we are innocent of criminal charges until proven guilty of them by the government. This means that prosecutors must present their evidence against those charged with crimes to a jury or judge who must then decide whether the government proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
That presumption of innocence, as it is called, is one of the most fundamental and cherished human rights. It exists so that cops and government goons can't haul you off to a dank dungeon because they don't like your ideas, clothes, hairstyle or politics. It was developed centuries ago because that's what used to happen to people.
Thanks to our war on drugs, government agents can seize your property and money on the mere suspicion that you've got something to do with drugs. They don't need a conviction or proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
So one of the basic human rights and protections against being falsely accused and imprisoned has been gutted by the war on drugs. Say, Darren, what do you think has happened to the morale of people who believe in the concept of innocent until proven guilty?
The Fourth Amendment is supposed make us secure in our homes and keep cops from barging into our houses without a search warrant signed by a judge and based on probable cause. Any judge and lawyer will tell you that the Fourth Amendment basically has been gutted in the past few decades. And it's been gutted by the war on drugs. Has White ever wondered what that has done to the morale of millions of freedom-loving Americans?
Privacy is another basic human right. Most people are intensely private about their financial affairs. It really isn't a radical idea that what you do with your money is your business and that nobody has a right to snoop into your financial affairs.
But thanks to the drug war, this aspect of privacy has been spat on and stomped on by the government. Cash transactions of $10,000 or more must be reported to the government spies. Nowadays anyone who carries around more than a couple hundred dollars is suspected of being a drug dealer. That's a morale buster that White ought to think about.
Millions of Americans are suspected of using drugs and of being drug dealers simply because they're Hispanic and black. That's what the drug war's racial profiling has given us.
And how's this for a morale buster: The government has banned plants that God put on the earth.
As a judge here once put it, the drug war has turned us all into criminals, and soon they'll start issuing parole numbers to people at birth.
While he's worrying about morale, White ought to consider this. If the Founding Fathers could see what has happened to their Constitution and concepts of freedom, they, too, would need some drugs.
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