Stephen Downing

Former LAPD Deputy Chief

Stephen Downing began his twenty-year police career in a squad car and finished as a deputy chief of police. As Commander of the Bureau of Special Investigations at one point, the Administrative Narcotics Division was one of the divisions within his scope of authority. His vast experience in law enforcement has led him to the conclusion that the War on Drugs can never be worth the human and fiscal costs.

Stephen entered the LAPD in 1960 and spent twelve years assigned to operations in South Central Los Angeles. He is a veteran of the Watts riot and its aftermath, which gave birth to the first community-based policing programs in the country. His assignments covered a wide range of specializations including patrol, criminal investigation, narcotics, vice and organized crime intelligence. Among the many commands held in the LAPD, his most memorable include: Captain of Detectives, where he established homicide investigation techniques still in use today; Commanding Officer of Juvenile Division, where he established and published a file that brought an end to abuses in state probation subsidy programs; and Commanding Officer of Southwest Area, where he designed and implemented the first functionally integrated police operation in law enforcement aimed at combating gang activity - a program that became a national model. As a staff officer Stephen was involved in reorganizing the LAPD from a centralized functional organization to a decentralized line organization.

During his final years with the LAPD he was a Deputy Chief in the Bureau of Special Investigations, where he supervised city-wide narcotic, vice and criminal intelligence functions. He was also a Deputy Chief in the Personnel and Training Bureau, where he oversaw operations involving the Police Training Academy, recruitment, personnel management and affirmative action and chaired the Department Shooting Review Board.

After twenty years in law enforcement witnessing the futility of our current drug laws, Stephen has concluded that this approach just isn't working. He explains, "We need an exit strategy to the War on Drugs. We keep trying to to stop addicts from shooting up or potheads from taking a toke by building more and more prisons to stuff with people, while human and fiscal costs skyrocket. We need a new approach."

Since leaving the LAPD, Stephen has been a writer and producer in the entertainment industry. He has remained in close touch with law enforcement through his membership in the Police Historical Society and his volunteer work, serving on various law enforcement related advisory boards in addition to his involvement with LEAP.