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The drug war killed police-community relations

Former Maryland Circuit Court Judge Emory A. Plitt Jr., a police accountability training instructor, conducts an Internal Affairs training at the Baltimore Police Academy. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun video)

Thank you for your continuing coverage of police-community relations ("After Freddie Gray," Aug. 7). Violence between police and community members has many causes, including racism, but one of the most insidious is the futile and counter-productive War on Drugs. It was racist in conception back in the 1970s when the term was coined by the Nixon administration. It continues to cause many tens of thousands of tension-filled police-community encounters — including the one that led to Freddie Gray's death — every day in our nation with little discernible benefit.

Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke warned us of this many years ago, but we continue to spend precious dollars — more than $1.5 trillion cumulatively — and waste precious lives with this failed strategy.

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The city cannot end the War on Drugs by itself, but it can reform police practices and work in Annapolis for substantial reforms. More importantly, the people of our nation must come together to seek peace in our streets and must forge that peace with our legislators using our inalienable rights to speak, assemble and petition. Many things need to be changed, but some combination of legalizing and medicalizing the drug problem is one of the most important. There are better ways to treat substance abuse. State and federal legislators need to study those ways and develop the courage to act.

Charlie Cooper, Baltimore

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