Norm Stamper, a man for our times

August 16, 2013

Friday, August 16, 2013

Good morning to all of our friends.

Crane is back. She got in late last night and she’s still on West coast time, so she’ll be sleeping for awhile.

Looneydoone posted this suggestion on the Ray Kelly thread yesterday afternoon:

Why not consider someone like former Police Chief Norm Stamper for DHS or “Drug Czar” ?

If only . . .

Norm Stamper is an extraordinary man. He was a law enforcement officer for 34 years, serving as a police officer in San Diego for 28 years and as Chief of Police for the City of Seattle for 6 years (1994-2000).

Wikipedia provides a quick summary:

Stamper is known for his role as Chief of the Seattle Police Department responsible for Seattle’s response to the protests of the WTO Ministerial Conference of 1999, which eventually led to his resignation. Stamper has expressed regret about his decisions at the time. When discussing the use of chemical agents such as tear gas Norm Stamper declared it was a mistake and said “The chief in me should have said, ‘For the greater good, we ought not to have brought those chemical agents out. We ought not to have, I think, raised the stakes.'”

Since his resignation, Stamper has called for the legalization of all drugs and the case-by-case release of persons incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses. He serves as an advisory board member for LEAP as well as NORML. He has also starred in the marijuana documentary The Union: The Business Behind Getting High.

Stamper is the author of a book entitled Breaking Rank: A Top Cop’s Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing.

In response to the Occupy demonstrations, he has reiterated his regret about how he handled the protests in Seattle, and publicly stated the need to create an alternative to what he termed “the paramilitary bureaucracy that is American policing”, stating no change will happen “unless, even as we cull ‘bad apples’ from our police forces, we recognize that the barrel itself is rotten”.

Stamper opposes racism and our nation’s abominable incarceration rate:

“Justice is like a train that is nearly always late.”
—Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Happening upon this quote by the Russian poet and filmmaker, I’m reminded of the vast numbers of long-dead Americans denied simple justice in their lifetimes.

The train arrived too late, for example, for millions of African Americans who for centuries were legally victimized by slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and economic and physical cruelty.

Resistance to basic legal reforms guarantees that many millions of Americans will go to their graves as victims of sanctioned injustice. The train is not even in sight for the half million non-violent drug offenders (disproportionately poor and of color) languishing in our prisons, the result of a fatally flawed belief that prohibition works, or can somehow be made to work. Research and the experience of many other nations demonstrate how the regulated legalization of all drugs would make our neighborhoods, and our citizens, safer and healthier.

The U.S., with less than five percent of the world’s population, is home to 25 percent of its prisoners, a whopping 2.3 million people. Some offenders belong in prison, many do not. We pay dearly for a vindictive system that often serves to make matters so much worse.

He opposes the death penalty:

In only 17 states (plus the District of Columbia) is the barbaric, fruitless practice of human execution outlawed. The “Innocence Projects” around the country have freed over 200 wrongly convicted persons, many of them after having served 10 or 20 or more years in prison, some on death row. No one knows how many innocent people have been put to death in this country. The memory of even one should sear the conscience of the American people, and force our lawmakers to end the death penalty.

He wants to repeal the Second Amendment:

Guns in the hands of people who should never touch a firearm ensure unsafe streets, homes, campuses, and workplaces across the land, with the continuing threat of the slaughter of innocent children.

He wants justice in the home:

Violence in the home denies basic security and emotional wellbeing for millions of people, most of them women, many of them children. Being brutalized, terrorized, forced to live in fear of a “loved one” is an abject form of injustice.

He writes a regular column for the Huffington Post. On Tuesday he wrote about the unlawful stop-and-frisk policy by the NYPD:

Unfortunately, NYPD ignored this law [Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968)] and, in the process violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the constitution. Perhaps if Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly could put themselves in the shoes of an innocent young black man, whose skin color has been criminalized by the city, they would understand how to use the legitimate public safety tool that is stop-and-frisk.

Yes, indeed. Norm Stamper is another one of my heroes, even though I recall cursing him during the World Trade Organization (WTO) riots in Seattle when he gave the order to use pepper gas to break-up demonstrators marching in the downtown streets on a workday. I was gassed while walking back to my office from federal court and I threw up all over the sidewalk.

Nothing will radicalize an innocent person quicker than suffering through an incident like that. What started as a small demonstration quickly turned into a full blown riot.

I respect and long ago forgave Stamper for admitting his mistake and apologizing for it. He even resigned as police chief. There are literally legions of people in positions of leadership and power in this country who would never even consider admitting they made a wrong decision, let alone apologize for it.

Of course, there is absolutely no chance that President Obama would consider nominating him to run the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or serve as the nation’s Drug Czar.

The simple truth is corporate America and the banks are making billions of dollars off our nation’s wars for unfettered control and exploitation of natural and human resources in foreign countries and at home. The banks also make billions laundering drug profits.

If men and women in government and corporate boardrooms were as honest and principled as Norm Stamper, we would have a functioning instead of a pretend democracy, the government would be running the banks instead of the banks running the government, there would not be a war against drugs, we would not need a Department of Homeland Security, and we would not have the NSA spying on us.

Norm Stamper is an advisory board member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), and serves on the board of directors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services in San Juan County, Washington. He lives and writes in the San Juan Islands.


We thank everyone for their donations. Although the financial situation has improved, we remain uncomfortably close to the brink. If you can afford to and have not already done so, please take a few minutes to make a donation.

Producing articles every day and maintaining this blog requires substantial time and effort.

We streeeeeeetch your mind.



%d bloggers like this: