The War on Drugs Made Police More Violent, Narcotics Policy Experts Say

By Zach Harris || June 12, 2020

“The 40-year War on Drugs, unwinnable from the start, is a policy failure that has come at great cost, to society generally and to minority communities especially," wrote public policy experts at Rice University's Baker Institute.

As Americans across the country continue to take to the streets and demand that police departments get defunded, drug policy experts have pointed to the War on Drugs as a salient starting point for meaningful reform.

In a new blog post published by Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, authors Katherine Harris and Alfred Glassell argued that America’s obsession with fighting narcotics crimes has facilitated the militarization of domestic policing. And to achieve real reform in law enforcement, Harris and Glassell propose, we must first end the War on Drugs altogether.

“Collectively, proactive drug enforcement has normalized overzealous policing, which leads to unnecessary citizen-police interactions that have the potential to escalate,”the blog post reads. “The simplest and most effective way to end, or at least greatly reduce, these encounters is for the federal and state governments to remove their legal basis by decriminalizing low-level drug possession.”

Whether it is stop-and-frisk encounters in heavily policed narcotics “hotspots,” surging police department budgets, or no-knock drug warrants like the one that led to the murder of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, confronting drug crimes has spurred countless instances of police violence. But rather than stem the tide of deadly drugs like fentanyl,most narcotics policing targets users and low-level dealers, continuing a cycle of incarceration, community disinvestment, and increased policing.

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