'I'm Not There Yet'

A recently retired interim police chief in Seattle replied, "I'm not there yet" when asked by a local reporter whether he could support an end to drug prohibition. Perhaps this story about a 19-month-old victim of police militarization -- a drug raid gone bad, a drug war gone mad -- might hasten his journey.

We hear it from lawmakers and law enforcers from coast to coast, border to border: "I'm not there yet." Which sounds to my ear like, "Yes, of course. The war on drugs has been an unmitigated failure. Ending it -- replacing prohibition with regulated legalization, converting from a criminal justice to a public health model -- makes perfect moral and financial sense. But I have a career to protect, money to raise, constituencies to placate..."

As these leaders continue to dither, we will continue to experience a steady stream of exasperating, heartbreaking incidents: wrong houses hit in drug raids, family pets and innocent people, including cops, gunned down, quiet residential neighborhoods terrorized by early morning military-like assaults. All of which will continue to increase distrust of our police officers, who, for over 40 years, have served as frontline soldiers in the drug war.

As William Gladstone put it in 1868: "Justice delayed is justice denied." There are certain moral imperatives--protection and preservation of human life, civil liberties, social justice -- that can't wait for timid leaders to "get there." It's time for them to step on the gas. And make up for lost time.