Cops Sentenced for Theft, Lying

Like other laws against victimless crimes, drug laws are impossible to enforce uniformly and impossible to enforce while observing inherent human rights. Drug laws always lead to laws eroding other rights and giving police more powers. These, in turn, inevitably lead to police abusing their powers against people they don't like.

From 1988 to 1991, a group of four policemen in Philadelphia's 39th police district stole $100,000 from drug dealers and sent innocent people to prison. In a February 1991 incident that sparked the investigation into the crimes, two policemen stopped a college student, roughed him up, searched through his apartment and threatened to kill him, because they mistook him for a drug dealer.

In April 1996, five policemen were sentenced to federal prison terms ranging from 10 months to 13 years. In addition, criminal charges have been filed against officers in other police districts and in the city's highway patrol unit.

The investigation uncovered that the police planted evidence and gave false testimony, evidence of corruption that could lead to the review of a thousand drug cases. A specially assigned judge had already dismissed charges against twenty-seven defendants by early 1995, and over a hundred drug convictions have been overturned.

"Many innocent defendants have spent years in prison," said Public Defender Bradley Bridge. Betty Patterson, 53, completed her three-year prison term in 1994. The investigation revealed that police framed her and planted drugs in her home. John Wayne Coleman, who has spent the last four years in prison, was another whose case was dismissed.

Police are able to get away with such egregious violations of human rights because the drug war demonizes drug users and dealers, especially minority ones. No one cares when hundreds of poor minorities are treated in this manner, because after all, they're all drug users, right? At least no one cares until a college student gets mistaken for one.

Sources: February 1995 Philadelphia Inquirer article; April 15, 1996 Associated Press article, "It was the 'day of judgment' for rogue cops in Philadelphia."