Monday, 22 September 2008

Corruption: The Price of Prohibition

Imagine you’re a police officer on an average wage with a large family. You have the usual problems like schools fees, utility bills and a never ending mortgage. What if one day you are sent to a special building to pick up evidence and are handed $100K in cash. The clerk tells you to sign the docket and to return the $80K in one week. As you look up at him to inform him of his mistake, he whispers “ten thousand each” as he takes back the pen. It’s only drug money right? 

No one would miss it and besides, it’s not going to hurt anyone. 

What if you are called to a domestic dispute in a high rise housing commission block. The door is already open and no one is there ... except on the table is $30K in cash? Drug money made illegally that would be used to buy more drugs. Do you turn it in knowing it will probably end up in the pockets of corrupt officers? Wouldn’t it be wiser to pay for your children’s education? What about your pension bound parents who could do with some financial relief? Certainly they deserve it more than the lousy drug dealer? 

There are many scenarios like this played out everyday. The lure of easy, untraceable cash is made easier knowing that it came from drug sales and not someone’s hard earned wages. For the less scrupulous, the opportunities are everywhere and being in a position that deals with drug money can lead to huge personal rewards. Face it, it’s only drug money ... and there’s a lot of it. 

The illicit drug industry is the second largest industry on earth apart from military and weapons spending. Estimated at between $300 - $400 billion dollars annually, it’s a criminal’s dream come true. Many, many willing clients with a daily need, large profit margins, easy to produce goods and of course, enough money to grease the palms of those who might stand in your way. 

The estimated profit margin for heroin from the poppy fields of Afghanistan to the end user is 17,000% Plenty of room to pay off officials and law enforcement along the way. 

Mexico is one of the great examples of how deep corruption can go and the damage at the end of it all. With nearly 3000 drug gang related deaths (many civilians) and 40,000 soldiers fighting the drug cartels, corruption is the oil keeping the wheels turning. Last month, Mexico devised an emergency plan to combat the wave of violence caused by drug cartels. Apart from providing security forces with more powerful weapons, special prisons for kidnappers and new tactics to combat money laundering and drug trafficking, the number one point was sacking corrupt police officers. 

One issue we need to keep reminding ourselves of is that huge profits made from illicit drugs is a recent happening. Prior to 1968, there was no DEA in the US but the Federal Bureau of Narcotics that never had more than 17 members of staff. The ever expanding influence of the US on demonising drug use rapidly pushed up the price of illicit drugs worldwide, creating this made man problem. The DEA now has about 10,800 staff and is part of the $69 billion dollars spent annually by the US in the quest to stop drug use. 

Corruption is a nasty side effect of creating this artificial multi-billion dollar industry and will never go away until the profit incentive is removed. I have seen police corruption first hand. I have witnessed several times, police taking cash from small time user/dealers. People I know have been pulled over in the street, searched and had money from their wallets taken with no paper work or official record. It’s part of the game on the streets ... some police are corrupt and they are the ones to avoid at all costs. They are the ones who will hound you even after your days as a drug user are over. Yes, I have notified the appropriate authorities on several occasions and have made official complaints. Like many who have had contact with corrupt police, you know there’s enough money to make your complaint go away. It’s just the rules of the game.

Drugs worth millions go missing from police 
John Silvester 
September 2008 

THE Victorian Ombudsman is investigating claims that seized drugs worth millions of dollars are missing from the police forensic science laboratory.

An internal police audit has found drugs listed as destroyed years ago have been kept, and chemicals that should have been stored are missing.

The failure to maintain stringent chain of evidence standards has the potential to have an impact on several coming trials.

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Potentially volatile chemicals, seized from drug raids over several years, are stored in a separate brick building at the rear of the Macleod laboratory and have not been subjected to the usual exhibit management standards.

Senior police have admitted privately they are unable to say whether the missing drugs have been destroyed, are lost or were stolen. A full audit would require checking thousands of computer page entries against lists of drugs and chemicals meant to have been destroyed.

"The truth is we will never know. Many cases go back years and it is impossible to find out what really happened in each case," one senior policeman said.

The now disbanded Ceja corruption taskforce investigated claims that seized drugs were recycled by the former drug squad and either sold or given to informers as a reward for information. One former Ceja investigator said there were suspicions at the time that some seized drugs were not destroyed as required by law.

Two previous police audits of the forensic unit have left the problem unresolved.

The Ombudsman - rather than the Office of Police Integrity - is overseeing the investigation because it involves unsworn scientific and administrative staff rather than sworn police. Police sources said that despite several warnings in recent years that the audit, storage and maintenance of seized drugs was inadequate, there have been no substantial improvements.

The Ombudsman's investigation began after it received information from within the police force that there was a serious problem with the handling and storage of drugs in the Macleod facility.

Ombudsman investigators have taken the allegations seriously enough to register a person within the police department with vital information as a protected internal source.

Police have twice received information relating to plans by organised crime figures and corrupt police to infiltrate the secure forensic science drugs unit.

In 1991 police discovered that 10 kilograms of an amphetamine chemical had been switched with red tile grout after it had been seized by police. Later police found that drug squad detective Kevin Hicks organised several burglaries on the Attwood police storage area to allow criminals to steal back seized chemicals.

Hicks was later sentenced to a minimum of five years' jail after pleading guilty to theft, bribery and burglary charges.

A spokeswoman for the Ombudsman's Office refused to comment. "We cannot provide any information at all," she said.

Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon's spokesman said: "As this is a whistleblower matter we will not be making any further comment."

Judges and magistrates have repeatedly criticised the delays in obtaining drug analysis reports, but police say this is due to chronic understaffing in the specialist scientific unit.

Police are conducting a separate inquiry into DNA procedures after a murder case collapsed last month.

Deputy Commissioner Simon Overland said the inquiry would review 7000 DNA cases after a sample resulting in a man being charged over the murders of mother and daughter Margaret and Seana Tapp in 1984, was found to be tainted.

The charges against the man were dropped when it was discovered the DNA evidence was worthless.

The unit also came under fire from police, lawyers and the judiciary at the height of the Purana gangland prosecutions because of delays of up to 12 months in obtaining drug test results.


Anonymous said...

A cop is my dealer.

Terry Wright said...

Thanks Anon

Cops probably have the hardest job imaginable and deserve much respect but the bent ones are vermin. They aren't selling to support a habit but purely for profit.

InnerCityTrendy said...

The thing is that corruption is not just limited to those scum-bag cops who take money or sell drugs. Every cop who sees other cops being dodgy and who doesn't report it is corrupt.