Matthew Fogg, retired Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal, LEAP speaker, Executive Director of the Congress Against Racism & Corruption in Law Enforcement, and Christians Against Prohibition board member, speaks about racism in the Drug War and the failures of drug prohibition.
My name is Matthew Fogg, I am a retired Chief Deputy United States Marshal with 32 years of service. I came on in 1978. In 1989 I was on the front line of the Drug War. LEAP didn't come along until a decade or more later. But I was probably already on "LEAP mode" early on because on these operations I began to see that it was very very one-sided — biased in its nature — who we were going after, the low-level guys, and who we were targeting.
We were mainly targeting urban areas. And even when I brought the issue up, "why are we specifically going in to these areas?" I was told that, "they're the weakest link. That's where we can get our numbers up. We need to get the public buy-in that we're really warring on drugs and we're making a difference."
Of course the agents, the cops, and everyone involved in the drug war, we all knew that we weren't making a difference. And the statistics showed we weren't making a difference. That the more folks we locked up, the more folks took over the drug operations.
As a matter of fact the Marshal service, it was my SWAT team — special operations group — that actually went down and got Manuel Noriega after the army arrested him down in [Panama]; and our people went down and got him back and brought him back to Miami for prosecution. Well, if you remember I think that was like 1985. The word was out, "well, the drugs are gonna now be stopped coming in to America the way they were coming in to this country."
As you know, after we locked up Manuel Noriega, five other "Noriegas" popped up. The drug lords begin to pop up as they always did.
And one of the things I noticed, that when I saw that we were targeting just urban areas in all of these cities, I raised a question, "why aren't we going out — for example — why aren't we going out to Potomac, Maryland, Springfield, Virginia, in places in other areas around the country; why aren't we targeting the more affluent, rural, areas of America where drugs are. And according to the National Crime Control Statistics, more drugs are being used in those areas than even in the urban areas: white America, middle-class America, upper-class America.
And I'll never forget because I was told by one of the special agents in charge, he told me, "Fogg, you know you're right they are using drugs there." Folks in my task force, we knew in this particular areas were using these drugs, but we were told, "you know what? If we go out and we start targeting those individuals, they know judges, they know lawyers, they know politicians, they know all of the big folks in government. If we start targeting them, and their children, you know what's going to happen? We're going to get a phone call and they're going to shut us down. You know that Fogg? You know what's going to happen? There goes your overtime. There's the money that you're making. So let's just go after the weakest link.
"Let's go after those who can't afford the attorneys, those who we can lock up and whatever the prosecutor says they did, they have to plead out." And it was a vicious revolving door that lead right to prison. And that's why we had the numbers that we have today. It was an obvious human rights violation, it was racial profiling, it was everything combined. And it's had a very very negative effect on our society today.
And I was not — I made up my mind — I'm not going to be a part of that; if it costs me my job and everything else. I will speak out and not be a part [of it]. My message here is to other law enforcement officers, you can look around you, you know, you see the bias impact of this war on drugs. You see who we go after, and it's up to you to stand true to your oath, and what you swore to uphold: the Constitution of this country.
It stands true for you to stand up and take that position and say, "I'm not doing this, if it's not going to be an equal enforcement opportunity operation, then it's unfair, it's unjust, it is already a violation of law before it even gets in to place"
To me, what this country has done is destroyed a whole decade — maybe two decades — of young people, their families, and everyone when you talk about the impact of that: how many people are in jail, being taken away from families, being split-up, broken-up, and everything else.
When simply we understand that prohibition is not working — as it didn't work with alcohol nor tobacco — it never did work; and prohibition does not work, we find today — 40-years later — we find that drugs are more pure, drugs are more accessible, in prison and on the street.
So that was one of the reasons why, when I saw that an organization like LEAP, that had the audacity to go against the norm, the status quo, and come forward, and speak out — and law enforcement officers that were working with me, we all knew it, it's just that nobody wanted to speak out — and when I spoke out, right along with the rest of my career, there was retribution. I ultimately ended up going to case, going to trial — on civil rights violations that occurred with me on the inside — for my speaking out and blowing the whistle.
And it wasn't just for the drugs, it was whistle-blowing all the way around. When you're a police officer and you're sworn to uphold the Constitution of this country, you're sworn to serve and protect, it's your job — even if you see other officers doing things wrong — to speak out and to say, "this isn't right." Well, we understand there's terminology called "the blue wall of silence," it's in the federal, state, and local level and if you see it and you know it's not correct, and you speak out then the system has a way — everybody turns on you, ostracizes you — and before you know it, you won't even have back-up on a stake-out; that's what happened to me.
But it doesn't matter because I stood my ground, and I happened to believe in a God that's protecting me. So here it is, LEAP comes along, and I'm saying, "this is God-sent;" 'cause this is officers from all around the country, judges, lawyers, police officers, people that see that this human rights violation, this drug, this whole prohibition effect, it's only created more crime, more deaths, more murder.
And it's important that we as law enforcement officers speak out against it, and LEAP is one of the ways that we have come together.