Police officers across the country are on high alert following the latest disturbing report from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund which showed that 136 officers tragically lost their lives in the line of duty this year. The figures also show the number grew 10 percent from 2015’s figure of 123. Not a huge spike, but enough to grab the attention of the nation's cops.
Contrary to what some readers of The Free Thought Project have expressed in comments and messages, TFTP is not anti-cop, anti-police, or anti-law-and-order. On the contrary, while we focus on police corruption, police brutality, badge abuse, and policies which enable such actions and behaviors, we grieve with the families of those who’ve lost their lives in the line of duty. At the same time, we realize our work is to highlight the reasons we believe police officers’ lives are in jeopardy on a daily basis, and why the system works against their safety.
As Matt Agorist of TFTP explained reflecting on the summer of 2016's killing of eight police officers by domestic terrorists, "these attacks do nothing to stop police violence against citizens. In fact, it has the exact opposite effect. Now, when cops needlessly kill someone, their actions will be under less scrutiny from the public. All the police have to say now is 'Dallas' or 'Baton Rouge.'"
Tragically, while 136 souls perished in the line of duty in 2016, it could be worse, and historically speaking, has been much worse. In 1930, the population of the United States was a third of what it is today. In that year, 324 police officers lost their lives in the line of duty. To put it into perspective, if the same percentage of police officers who lost their lives in 1930, had lost their lives in the line of duty in 2016, the number of police officers killed would have exceeded 850. One might be tempted to ask why so many officers of the law perished in 1930. The answer is found in one simple word; prohibition.
According to History, “The ratification of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution–which banned the manufacture, transportation and sale of intoxicating liquors–ushered in a period in American history known as Prohibition,” a time in U.S. history when alcohol was completely banned. The reasons for prohibition were many.
According to PBS, after the civil war, the country had experienced an influx of immigration, many of whom brought their hard-drinking customs with them. “The brewing business boomed as German-American entrepreneurs scaled up production to provide the new immigrants with millions of gallons of beer.” Heavy drinking gave way to, “distraught wives and mothers whose lives had been ruined by the excesses of the saloon.” Those wives and mothers then joined hand in hand to fight the evil they believed alcohol represented. “Thousands of women began to protest and organize politically for the cause of temperance. Their organization, the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), became a force to be reckoned with.”
The birth of the “widespread temperance movement during the first decade of the 20th century” enabled lobbyists to demand that the federal government outlaw alcohol. But soon, problems emerged. “Prohibition was difficult to enforce,” yet lawmen were undaunted by threats against their lives from those who profited from the illegal production, distribution, and sale of booze. “The increase
“The increase of the illegal production and sale of liquor (known as 'bootlegging'), the proliferation of speakeasies (illegal drinking spots) and the accompanying rise in gang violence,” all flourished under prohibition. But by the end of the roaring 20’s and at the start of the 1930’s, Americans had enough of prohibition and in 1933, “Congress adopted a resolution proposing a 21st Amendment to the Constitution that would repeal the 18th. It was ratified by the end of that year, bringing the Prohibition era to a close.”
The loss of police officer lives was inextricably connected with the prohibition of alcohol. In fact, the percentage of police officers killed in the line of duty was greater during prohibition than at any other time in U.S. history. All of which brings this current discussion to the failed War on Drugs. The
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The number of Americans being held in prison has skyrocketed since President Richard Nixon declared an official War on Drugs -- which not coincidentally was the second deadliest year for police in American during which 200 cops lost their lives at the onset of the drug war. In 1930, only 100 out of every 100,000 Americans were incarcerated. In 2016, after a forty-five-year war against drug users and dealers, that number now hovers around 1,000 per 100,000 citizens.
To put these numbers into perspective, nine out of every 100 Americans are incarcerated in the “prison industrial complex,” a new industry born out of mass incarcerations. And that may be the only reason why the number of police officer deaths are so low, compared to the percentage from 1930. These state-manufactured criminals who are most angry at the police are often behind bars, the casualties of the failed war on drugs.
Those who are comfortable with nearly 10 percent of their fellow citizens being behind bars may need to ask themselves if it could be better. The answer is that it has been better. Kidnapping, caging, and killing offenders does not appear to be the way forward. The United States represents only 5 percent of the world’s population but houses 25 percent of the world’s inmates.
Something has to change, and we at TFTP believe there’s a direct correlation between the growing number of prisons and prisoners with the prohibition of drugs like marijuana and police deaths. The United States cannot jail its way out of drug use and abuse. It cannot penalize enough people to end the nearly 50,000 deaths by opiates, heroin, and other drugs every year. Even while mortality statistics show that almost no one dies from using marijuana, the justice system in the United States continues to focus on marijuana users for punishment. As TFTP has reported on numerous occasions, "police made more arrests for simple marijuana possession than for all violent crimes combined.”
In 1930, police attempted to ban a substance. In 2016, police attempt (along with the substances) to ban a group of people, drug users. In 1930, prohibition resulted in violence, gang activity, and police officer murders. In 2016, drug prohibition has resulted in violence, gang activity, police officer murders and the mass incarceration of millions of Americans involved in the illegal drug trade -- as well as a slew of innocent civilians caught in the middle of this deadly drug war.
It took a brave Congress to repeal prohibition. It will take a brave Congress to end the War on Drugs. Only after Congress repealed the 18th amendment was law and order restored. Only after Congress disbands the DEA, ends mandatory sentencing for drug possession and distribution, and allows states to decide how they will deal with drug abuse -- will law and order be restored.
The eyes of millions Americans are being opened to the health benefits of natural medicine, which also includes marijuana, cbd, and kratom. Only when Americans are unafraid of law enforcement do fewer officers lose their lives in the line of duty. With that in mind, we are calling on President-elect Donald Trump, and his pick for Attorney General Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), following 28 U.S. States, to end marijuana prohibition at the federal level, decriminalize marijuana possession nationwide, release non-violent drug offenders system-wide, terminate the DEA, and focus the attention of the justice department on solving violent crimes, and crimes against children.
These actions, as proven in other countries who've already ended their drug wars, diminish the prison population, lead to fewer assaults on police officers, fewer officer-involved shootings, and reestablish trust between police and the public, and lead to a more tolerant society.
As Dionne Wilson, wife of slain California officer Nels “Dan” Niemi, bravely said, “I don’t think that anyone can tell me that had we invested in people over prisons, my husband wouldn’t be here today.”
Instead of focusing on why people “reenter” the prison system, Wilson advocates for the revolutionary policy of “no entry.” Wilson now pushes the radical but logical idea “that people never enter the system, that we stop feeding this system of mass incarceration. Stop punishing people for self-medicating trauma with drugs and alcohol, stop punishing people for mental illness. These policies don’t work. The promise of public safety has not helped.”