Community Policing Defines Nominee 

Community Policing Defines Nominee 
Posted by CN Staff on March 23, 2009 at 20:53:27 PT
By Amy Goldstein, Washington Post Staff Writer 
Source: Washington Post
Washington, D.C. -- Ten months after R. Gil Kerlikowske became Seattle's police chief, two of his officers arrived at the home of JoAnna McKee, where she ran a co-op giving medical marijuana to patients and teaching them to grow their own. Neighbors, the police told her, had been complaining. Soon, a "cease and desist" order was tacked to her door.But instead of shutting down the Green Cross Patient Co-Op, Kerlikowske's director of police-community partnerships made a suggestion: Move it from her West Seattle house to a commercial area. She found a nearby storefront, and under Washington state's medical marijuana law, people could once again bring doctors' orders to get relief from pain. "The police could have come in here like gangbusters," McKee said. "But they didn't. It was a case of let's see whether we can work this out so everybody could get what they want."
That episode the summer of 2001 typifies the approach to illegal drugs that Kerlikowske, nominated by President Obama to lead the White House Office of Drug Control Policy, has displayed during nearly nine years as Seattle's top law enforcement officer. In a city with greater tolerance for drugs than much of the United States, he has seldom bucked the prevailing local sentiment. Seldom, though, has he been out front.In his 20s, he worked as a scraggly-haired undercover narcotics cop in his native Florida, trying to get users and dealers off the streets. He has an adopted son with a history of addiction and crimes. Years after others in Seattle's legal community began pushing for it, he has been talking lately about alternatives to drug arrests.According to legal and community leaders in Seattle familiar with his work, his views are in sync with the drug policies Obama has said he will pursue: a reorientation away from the Bush administration's intense focus on curbing the supply of illegal drugs and toward greater emphasis on preventing and treating addiction. As drug policy director, he would oversee a staff of more than 100 and a $440 million budget. In particular, Kerlikowske has supported King County's drug court, one of the most active in the country, which gives people arrested on drug charges a chance at treatment rather than jail.Yet in Seattle and three other cities where he has been chief, community policing -- not drug policy -- has defined Kerlikowske's career. The word "drugs" is not in a list of accomplishments on the police chief's Web site. When word began spreading last month that he might be chosen for the White House job, Bruce Chamberlin, a friend and admirer since both were police chiefs in Upstate New York, called to congratulate him. "He was studying up on all kinds of things," Chamberlin said, "because he felt he had a way to go to get up to speed."Kerlikowske, 59, is, people who know him say, intellectual, a relatively soft-spoken figure who shows up at countless community meetings day and night. Most of all, "the chief is pragmatic," said state Rep. Roger Goodman (D), who is a consultant to the King County Bar Association's drug policy project, which advocates for marijuana to be regulated and taxed.In 2003, Seattle residents placed on the ballot an initiative to make marijuana possession the Police Department's lowest priority. John P. Walters, the Bush administration's drug policy director, flew out to lobby aggressively against the initiative. Kerlikowske opposed it, too, but more mildly. The law was needless, he argued, because his officers already deemphasized marijuana arrests. It passed anyway."We believe it speaks to the man's integrity that after it became law, he chose to follow it," said a statement issued following Kerlikowske's nomination by the producers of Seattle Hempfest, a two-day "protestival" that bills itself as the world's largest gathering to support legalizing marijuana. City police are assigned to the event, where people smoke openly, but arrests are rare.Growing up in Fort Myers, Fla., Kerlikowske was drawn to law enforcement early. In high school, he worked part time for the local sheriff's department, fingerprinting prisoners and photographing crime scenes, according to a White House official familiar with his background. His mother worked for a judge, and he met officers and detectives when he visited her after school. He entered the Army and became a member of the military police, providing security to the presidential helicopter while Richard M. Nixon was in the White House.In Florida, he joined the St. Petersburg Police Department and became a detective quickly. His police partner in vice and narcotics, Hal Robbins, said they made drug buys and arrests. "We talked about the fact it's an issue that's so large you can't ever hope to arrest your way out of it. So you are looking at . . . treatment, prevention and enforcement."Kerlikowske has made no secret that he has seen drug's damaging effects firsthand. He adopted his first wife's son, Jeffrey, at age 2. Jeffrey Kerlikowske, now 39, dropped out of high school, moved out of the house and has been arrested repeatedly on drug and other charges since he was 18, police records show. The father and son have not been in touch since 1995, sources said.Kerlikowske struck his friends as ambitious. He moved from St. Petersburg to run two smaller police departments on Florida's east coast, and in 1994 he became Buffalo's police commissioner. Chamberlin, who recently had become chief in nearby Cheektowaga, N.Y., remembers feeling as if he was "no longer out there like the Lone Ranger" when Kerlikowske arrived with his talk of community relationships. His first year in Buffalo, the two of them visited local newspapers and television stations and would phone in when they liked or disliked a story.Kerlikowske became a familiar figure, riding around Buffalo's neighborhoods on a bicycle. One snowy Christmas Day, he was walking off Christmas dinner with his wife when he noticed a young man knock over a woman and run off with her purse, Chamberlin said. The chief stopped a passing snowplow, asked the driver to pursue the thief and arrested him.He spent two years in the Clinton administration's Justice Department as deputy director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing.He arrived in Seattle in 2000, following a chief who had left under pressure after notorious riots the year before at World Trade Organization meetings there. Two years ago, Kerlikowske became the center of controversy himself, when a citizens report on police accountability concluded that he had been too soft, at times, on officers accused of misconduct. Others said the city's rules were at fault."Without a lot of fanfare or hoopla, Gil has made clear that, as far as the police are concerned, they are really to give attention to the prevention-rehabilitation side of things, as well as the enforcement side of things," said Hubert Locke, a retired University of Washington professor of public affairs.From soon after he arrived, Kerlikowske has attended meetings of the King County Drug Court's policymaking committee himself, rather than sending a representative, as chiefs before him had done. He did not oppose when the court expanded eligibility from people arrested on possession charges to ones dealing small amounts of drugs, said Mary Taylor, the court's program manager.The year after he arrived, public defenders began to challenge the department's long-standing pattern of drug arrests by seeking to dismiss certain criminal cases on the grounds that officers arrested minorities on such charges more often than whites. Two years ago, when the City Council approved money for experiments on alternatives to arrests, Kerlikowske did not oppose the move, recalled Lisa Daugaard, deputy director of the Defenders Association, a nonprofit public defense law firm. Still, she said, "it was not incorporated into the department's own vision of how it was going to approach drug enforcement."But starting last summer, Daugaard said, people in the community began to hear the chief talking about a new approach, directing commanders in the department to meet with social service groups about ways to rechannel police efforts from arresting people to getting them help. "This was," she said, "before the November election."Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.Source: Washington Post (DC)Author:   Amy Goldstein, Washington Post Staff Writer Published: Tuesday, March 24, 2009; Page A03Copyright: 2009 Washington Post Contact: letters URL: Related Articles:White House Nominates Kerlikowske as Drug Czar Police Chief To Be Named Drug Czar
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on March 25, 2009 at 12:29:52 PT
WA: The Time to Decriminalize Marijuana Is Now
March 24, 2009URL:
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on March 24, 2009 at 05:12:00 PT
He doesn't have the power to legalize marijuana. Congress must do that. He isn't the drug czar yet either.
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Comment #1 posted by OverwhelmSam on March 24, 2009 at 05:07:05 PT
If Gil is so Great
Why hasn't he legalized marijuana for adult use yet?
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