Jack Cole knows about the war on drugs from several perspectives. Cole retired as a Detective Lieutenant after a 26-year career with the New Jersey State Police. For twelve of those years Cole worked as an undercover narcotics officer. His investigations spanned the spectrum of possible cases, from street drug users and mid-level drug dealers in New Jersey to international “billion-dollar” drug trafficking organizations. Cole ended his undercover career living nearly two years in Boston and New York City, posing as a fugitive drug dealer wanted for murder, while tracking members of a terrorist organization that robbed banks, planted bombs in corporate headquarters, court-houses, police stations, and airplanes and ultimately murdered a New Jersey State Trooper.
After retiring, Cole dealt with the emotional residue left from his participation in the unjust war on drugs by working to reform current drug policy. He moved to Boston to continue his education. Cole holds a B.A. in Criminal Justice and a Masters degree in Public Policy. Currently writing his dissertation for the Public Policy Ph.D. Program at the University of Massachusetts, his major focus is on the issues of race and gender bias, brutality and corruption in law enforcement. Cole believes ending drug prohibition will go a long way toward correcting those problems.
Cole has taught courses to police recruits and veteran officers on ethics, integrity, moral decision-making, and the detrimental effects of racial profiling. He has also presented papers at international conferences and spoken on drug policy reform in the European Parliament, as well as to students, educators, professional, civic, benevolent, and religious groups in Canada, Central America, Europe, and across the United States. Cole is passionate in his belief that the drug war is steeped in racism, that it is needlessly destroying the lives of young people, and that it is corrupting our police. Cole's discussions give his audience an alternative prospective of the US war on drugs from the view of a veteran drug-warrior turned against the war.
End destructive, costly war on drugs
City cop keeps job during his probation
Scranton Times Tribune
December 27, 2003
By Jack Cole, (retired New Jersey State Police narcotics detective)
I hope Lynne Slack Shedlock's 12/25/2003 article, “City cop keeps job during his probation” about a Scranton police officer who was permitted to return to the department after receiving one year probation for attempting to illegally buy OxyContin, is a harbinger of Christmas to come. I also hope this compassionate attitude does not apply only to police but also to the generations of young people whose lives are destroyed by the US policy of a “war on drugs.”
After three decades of fueling these failed policies with over half a trillion tax dollars and increasingly punitive retribution, it is time to declare that we have lost the war! Our court systems are choked with prosecuting the ever-increasing annual arrests of people for nonviolent drug violations—now totaling 1.6 million per year. Our prison population has quadrupled in the last twenty years to today's rate of 699 people per 100,000 population—seven-times that of the European nations.
Meanwhile, drug barons grow richer every year, terrorists amass fortunes from drug sales and people continue dying on our streets. The result of this destructive war is that, today, illicit drugs are cheaper, more potent, and easier to get, than they were 33 years ago when I, as an undercover narcotics agent, first started buying heroin on those streets and our children report “it is easier [for them] to buy illegal drugs than it is to buy beer and cigarettes.”
This represents the very definition of a failed public policy. Will Rogers said, “If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.” When a policy has failed so miserably over such a long period, it is time to stop digging and find alternative strategies.
We must end this destructive and costly war and the drug prohibition philosophy it is based upon. During alcohol prohibition at the beginning of the 20th century, the United States had the highest rate of murder as well as corruption of public officials in its history—until now. We have surpassed those figures in the current war on drugs.
We are needlessly destroying the lives of America's youth. How many young people do you know who have used an illegal drug, but have gone on to lead productive lives? With imprisonment, that possibility is eliminated. Moreover, with the economy floundering and states registering deficit spending, the United States can no longer afford this war, which is estimated to cost 69 billion dollars per year.
Ending drug prohibition is not a decision I came to lightly. Rather, I made it after 26 years in law enforcement—fourteen as an undercover narcotics agent. I am not alone in this view. Increasing numbers of current and former members of law enforcement and informed citizens who believe the cure is worse than the disease have joined me.
In 2002, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) was founded. Its respected directors are comprised of current and former judges, prosecutors, and police officers. Its primary mission is to educate the public about the futility of this effort that has become, not a war on drugs, but a war on people. Society must develop a more humane and effective public policy on this issue.
Jack A. Cole