By Chief Joseph C. Carter
|Chief Joseph C. Carter, Transit Police|
Department, Massachusetts Bay
n early May, I had the opportunity to attend the International Drug Enforcement Conference (IDEC) XXV in Madrid, Spain. For the past 25 years this conference, aptly led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, has stood at the forefront of international drug enforcement efforts. IDEC’s purpose, to share information and develop a coordinated approach against international drug traffickers, served to highlight the challenge transnational criminal and terrorist organizations pose to the international law enforcement community.
Each of us, as law enforcement professionals, understands and continues to be alarmed by the magnitude of drug abuse, illicit production, and trafficking in narcotics, which threaten the health and well-being of millions of individuals, in particular youth, in all countries of the world.
We are also well aware of the close relationship between drug abuse and other crimes. For example, studies within the United States have found that 82 percent of all jail inmates admitted to a prior use of drugs and 36 percent acknowledged being on drugs at the time of their offense. Other studies have found that up to 75 percent of those charged with crimes had drugs in their system at the time of their arrest.
The growing nature of drug abuse continues to seriously threaten the socioeconomic and political systems, and the stability, national security, and even sovereignty, of an increasing number of nations.
Simply put, the growing violence and economic power of criminal organizations and terrorist groups that engage in the production, trafficking, and distribution of drugs are extremely alarming and of great concern to us all. These twin weapons have, at times, placed these criminal organizations beyond the reach of the law, allowing them to corrupt the very institutions that are designed to combat them. As a result, these organizations have threatened the very stability of many societies throughout the world.
Of course, international borders do not limit the influence of these narco-barons and their organizations. Nor do international borders ensure protection of neighboring or distant nations from the reach of international drug syndicates. With their vast power, wealth, and corruptive influence, drug syndicates also have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to threaten the security of all nations.
This is a global threat, and it must be confronted by a united and committed law enforcement response. The question before us is how best to proceed.
We often hear that we are engaged in a “war on drugs.” Although we may be engaged in a war, we have not sufficiently unified our efforts to win the war. Although progress has been made in recent years, we in law enforcement still have a tendency to operate in isolation, mounting antidrug operations that are focused on our local interests and lack a broader global view.
Success in combating and ultimately defeating the international drug trade requires careful planning, coordinated action, and the development, implementation, and aggressive prosecution of a sustained, comprehensive global strategy that is equal to that of the drug cartels.
We must remember that drug organizations operate on a vast scale, employing literally hundreds of thousands of individuals in numerous countries throughout the world. They will not be defeated by a series of fragmented and diffuse enforcement operations.
However, we cannot limit our focus solely to enforcement efforts. We must also recognize that the problems caused by substance abuse and illicit trafficking can be resolved only through a balanced and integrated approach that reduces both the supply of and the demand for illegal narcotics using prevention, education, treatment, and rehabilitation.
Tragically, it has been my experience that many law enforcement officials do not feel it is their role to speak out on these issues, choosing instead to leave that for others. I strongly disagree with this view.
Each of us has a role to play beyond enforcement in this effort. We are public safety experts who witness firsthand the damage and horror that drug abuse and drug-related crime visit on society. And, equally important, we cannot forget the countless brave and dedicated law enforcement personnel who have lost their lives in this battle. It is our responsibility to speak out, to campaign for change, and to ensure that our societies provide our agencies the tools they need to win and to ensure that governments avoid “easy fixes” such as drug legalization, which only serves to condemn more victims to the horrors of drug abuse.
Together, our organizations and our officers represent a powerful force for change in our societies. Our officers serve as role models for the young and as symbols of stability and security in a world that is often all too chaotic and dangerous.
We must speak with one voice! We must guarantee that we, as the collective voice of international law enforcement, work to ensure that the world stands firm in the face of the challenges posed by drug traffickers, drug dealers, and drug users. Our duty demands no less.■