Vice Squad
Monday, November 10, 2003
(Almost) Free Money

The online version of the Chicago Tribune informs us that another
local law enforcement official has been arrested following a sting. Seems the
Chicago policeman and three accomplices allegedly tried to burglarize the
apartment of someone they thought was a drug dealer. "Police said they
suspect [the officer] and his accomplices had targeted drug dealers in the
past, and were investigating if the four suspects had committed other crimes."

Somehow I don't think that the following revelation in the Trib is
going to spur much future whistleblowing: "The alleged corruption came to light
after another officer notified the Chicago Police Department's Internal Affairs
division of a conversation he had with Freeman on Oct. 14, officials said." Was
this publicity deliberate?

As I have noted before (hmmm, not sure where--well, try here and here), the
undermining of the integrity of the police is one of the significant and generally
underappreciated costs of drug prohibition. Drug prohibition sets up this
immensely attractive prospect, both for officers and inner-city youth --
a prospect I liken to the legal notion of an attractive nuisance. Then when
some of them (foreseeably) succumb to the temptation, we castigate (and imprison)
them as corrupt cops or dangerous drug dealers. I am not saying that corrupt
officers and drug dealers are blameless, of course. And just because a law is
frequently broken doesn't mean it should be repealed. But I am suggesting that
we should economize on our demands upon probity in the face of huge temptations,
by eliminating those temptations when they are unnecessary. It is always helpful to
keep in mind the goal of drug prohibition: to render it somewhat more difficult for
some of our friends and neighbors to pursue their pleasure by consuming a
substance that they desire to consume. And for this noble end, we run non-stop
integrity tests upon police officers and inner-city youths.

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