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2011 in Review: Issues and events in drug enforcement

Well, it seems 2011 has come and gone as fast as we could blink an eye. Controversies in law enforcement continue to make headlines and the evening news, from TASER use, new patrol car models, officer involved shootings, to dealing with the “Occupy” movement across the country. But an important topic that always makes it to the forefront is drug law enforcement and interdiction — the good, bad and the ugly in the “War on Drugs.” Here are four significant drug headlines we saw throughout 2011 — add your own ideas in the comments area below to round out this “Top Five” list.

Drug Tunnels
Border patrol and local authorities have discovered multiple drug smuggling tunnels running underground from Mexico to the United States. Is this a new concept, or having they been pulling it off for years? If it is not a new concept, why are we just now discovering more of them, could it be tunnels are increasing or that the people using them are becoming more careless?

These tunnels not only traffic narcotics, but guns, humans and other unwanted crimes.

H.R. 2306 Fails
In June, a few congressmen — including presidential candidate Ron Paul — supported and proposed a bill that would legalize the possession and use of marijuana on a federal level. In essence, the bill leaves it up to each individual states to regulate and make their own marijuana laws. It essentially took away any power to enforce marijuana laws from the federal government.

The bill died.

These people don’t realize the negative impact a bill like this would have on our efforts to stop the cartels. The D.E.A. is probably the most skilled and active force fighting the cartels. Taking away their ability and/or power to investigate marijuana would be crippling. Without federal law enforcement conducting intense, long term investigations, all efforts to combat the cartels to any significant levels would cease. Many large scale investigations into cocaine and methamphetamines, gun smuggling, money laundering, sometimes begin with a marijuana investigation. Marijuana is the biggest profit crop of the cartels. I just find it hard to believe that these legislatures can’t see the violence and criminal acts the people in the marijuana business are committing.

Legalizing marijuana doesn’t stop bad people from doing bad things.

Air, Sea, Border, and Highway Drug Interdiction
Although the final statistics are not out yet, I expect that law enforcement drug seizures will be at all time high levels both on federal and local levels. Curbing the meth lab epidemic only has brought massive quantities of Mexican made methamphetamines from their “super labs.” Just 15 years ago hitting a 25 pound load of weed or coke on a highway stop was normal, but 25 pounds of meth was unheard of. Not in 2011, the probability that big load on your next highway bust may very well be meth as easily as it could be marijuana. On water, multiple stories of large drugs shipments washing up on shore have been in the news. Local stories of crashed Cessna’s loaded with cocaine have been reported as well.

If you are an interdiction officer, whether working a checkpoint, a highway, or in a boat, you probably have some great trophy shots from 2011.

The Eponymous Detention Center
And last but definitely not least, I think this story takes the cake. Now we often hear of Podunk sheriff so and so in the rural mountains of (fill in your state here) being indicted on drug related charges. Probably should have never been elected as sheriff in the first place. But this next guy, Patrick Sullivan — a recipient of “National Sheriff of the Year” — made it his mission, his campaign stance, his identity as a law enforcement officer, to take a stand against methamphetamine with his state and nationwide efforts to thwart the use, possession, and delivery of methamphetamines.

Well, turns out that not only was he possibly dealing meth out of his house, but he was asking for sex in exchange as well. Now he is of course innocent until proven guilty, but doesn’t look to good for the ex-honorable sheriff here in this case. And to top it off he was booked into the Patrick J. Sullivan Detention Center, named after him. We as law enforcement have to be able to trust each other, and when someone like this violates our trust, it not only sets us back as individual officer’s but sets back our efforts of working together — city to city, city to county, county to state, and state to federal.

In the end, we as drug law enforcement officers will continue to do our jobs, through the good, bad, and ugly headlines we must endure. YOU stay strong; never compromise your beliefs, your ethics, your resolve to bag the bad guys. And if you are a bad guy wearing’ a badge, I’d sweat a little, because 99.99 percent of the cops you are working with may have the ability to catch on to what you are up too and you may be sharing a jail cell with Sheriff so-and-so before you know it.

Stay safe out there and Happy Holidays.

Lt. Hawkes is a 23-year police veteran. In addition to his years of highway drug interdiction, Lt. Hawkes has worked in patrol, K9, investigations, narcotics, and administration. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Dallas Baptist University and is a graduate of the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas. He is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Justice Leadership and Administration from the University of Texas at Dallas. He has been the recipient of both State and Local awards, including the Medal of Valor. His book, Secrets of Successful Highway Interdiction, which can be purchased here, contains eleven chapters on Highway Drug Interdiction.