I have to conclude that Radley Balko’s article “War on Drugs Corrupting America’s Cops” fails to fully understand the reason behind corrupt behaviour in narcotics law enforcement. It is not the “war on drugs” causing police corruption – it is process failure and lack of accountability. If processes are properly followed and senior law enforcement officers have proper oversight of covert activity, there is little opportunity for corrupt behaviour to occur. Every example that Balko uses could probably have been avoided if systems were in place to properly record and monitor covert activity.
Removing drug prohibition does not solve the problem – accountability issues will still remain. The answer is to improve management oversight across all covert operations and make it harder for police officers to stray away from acceptable behaviour.