What next, letting heroin users become cops?

The unfolding "reformation" of the Baltimore City Police Department continues to amaze me. When I came on to the Baltimore City Police Department in 1962, a traffic violation was enough to keep you a civilian; how progressive have we become? The ranks of the agency have been decimated, and Baltimore is another major U.S. city, that is under-policed. Could that have anything to do with the fact that everyone, including the administration of the city, has turned on those police? Malicious prosecutions of police and unlawful orders to "stand down" beg the question: what's next?

We may have just heard the answer to that question, the introduction of "pot head" police to the city ("Maryland regulators ease restrictions on past marijuana use by prospective police officers," April 19).  

Some years ago, I was a member of a panel that interviewed applicants. When I recommended that applicants who admitted to prior drug use submit to a drug test as part of their acceptance, I was removed from that panel! Harbinger of things as yet to come, I guess. As a detective captain I was the commanding officer of the Vice Unit, of the Criminal Investigation Division, consisting of gambling, prostitution and narcotics enforcement city-wide. Marijuana is most certainly a "gateway drug." And, I support that assertion by the fact that many hard drug users admitted to starting on marijuana! Marijuana has been shown to affect not only judgment, but the ability to handle machinery. Some studies contend that it also does damage to the brain.  Over the years, I can recall a couple of incidents involving train wrecks, where subsequent investigations indicated the use of marijuana by the operators.

The police will operate some dangerous "machinery," such as their patrol vehicles, and an even more dangerous machine, their sidearm. In both instances good judgment and ability to coherently think are absolutely necessary.  If the police commissioner believes that former marijuana users are the "right people" to police the streets of one of the nation's most violent major cities, he is entitled to that opinion.  

The city is dangerously under-policed; the commissioner seems to agree with that. The federal consent decree will effectively hamper those police who remain, burdening them with unnecessary paperwork while inhibiting their ability to act on their police instincts. They will now be "reinforced" by former drug users (marijuana is a drug).  What will be next? Crack and heroin users?

Robert L. DiStefano, Abingdon

The writer is a retired Baltimore City Police Department major.

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