03/28/10 - Adrian Garcia

Adrian Garcia, sheriff of Harris County Texas discusses failings of drug war, need for change

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Guest: 
Adrian Garcia
Organization: 
Harris County Sheriff
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Cultural Baggage March 28, 2010

Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.

It’s not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally un-American….. ‘NO MORE’ ‘DRUG WAR’ ‘NO MORE’ ‘DRUG WAR’ ‘NO MORE’ ‘DRUG WAR’ ‘NO MORE’ ‘DRUG WAR’

My Name is Dean Becker. I don’t condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison and judicial nightmare that feeds on eternal drug war.
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Hello, my friends. Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. It is a treat today to have with us in-studio, the Sheriff of Harris County, Mr. Adrian Garcia. Welcome, sir.

Sheriff Adrian Garcia: Thank you, Dean. Good to be here.

Dean Becker: Thank you, so much. It’s time that we open this can of worms and go fishing for truth. {chuckling} That’s what we’re all about, I think. We had Constable Trevino on our show last week. I met with the DA and her staff this week and for many reasons, we’re starting to understand that it’s time to re-examine some of our criminal justice policies to find a better way to go about things. Am I correct, sir?

Sheriff Adrian Garcia: That’s correct.

Dean Becker: Thank you again for being here. I wanted to share with you a couple of things that I try to give to elected officials, when I get the chance. It’s a copy of a book: Drug War Facts. It’s not bias in any fashion. It’s a lot of government documents and so forth, which I think helped clarify some of that need for change and then I brought a couple of DVD’s for you. One from my group, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, features the words of our ‘then’ Director, Jack Cole. Had twenty-six years as a Law Enforcement Officer, thirteen years as an ‘undercover’ Narcotics Agent, and then this is the War on Drugs - as seen by clergy.

I think in many ways we’re starting to hear the voice of the clergy, of law enforcement - especially those who have retired, to be honest. We have few members who are currently working, though our new Director, Mr. Neill Franklin, currently working in Baltimore, is a law enforcement officer. He worked in Baltimore under the days of the ’wire’, if you will, and he’s certainly seen a lot about the ramifications; the problems that we have created over the years.

Now, as you serve your county; your state, you have been a law enforcement officer some twenty-two/twenty-three years?

Sheriff Adrian Garcia: Twenty-three years.

Dean Becker: Twenty-three years you served as a city councilman, here in Houston for five and now you are the Sheriff of Harris County. We have about four million people in this county…

Sheriff Adrian Garcia: That’s correct.

Dean Becker: …and you have some four thousand, approximate, officers?

Sheriff Adrian Garcia: Not officers, but overall employees.

Dean Becker: Overall employees, yes. So it’s really than less than one per thousand population...

Sheriff Adrian Garcia: Oh, yeah.

Dean Becker: …taking care of this great city. You have so much to deal with. I think you’ve been given the task as Sisyphus or… you know, {laughter} keep rolling that boulder up the hill. But you’ve got the murders, the rapes, all the violent crimes. You’ve got all the check writing and just so many different crimes and on top of that, you’ve got users and sellers of these drugs, to contend with as well. It’s a Herculean task.

Your thoughts, sir? I mean, we have heard that DA Lykos is cutting back, drawing a new line insofar as less than one one-hundredth of a gram, which is just enough to barely be seen, really. But that amount is no longer… She’s asking that the people not be arrested and be brought to jail for that. Is that positive from your perspective, sir?

Sheriff Adrian Garcia: Well, I think it is common sense, more than positive, in the sense that when I listen to her reasoning, she was not pursuing those cases. Because ultimately, by virtue of the rules of engagement in the criminal justice system, you couldn’t effectively prosecute those cases. Because by the time you tested the evidence and give the defense their due process, there was no evidence to confirm or deny the existence of any particular narcotic and so, she took a common sense business approach I think, if you will, to say that, ‘If we can’t process these cases, than why are we accepting them?’ and so from that standpoint, I cautiously agreed with her particular stance.

Now when I say cautiously, I… Having been a straight cop and having seen some things myself, I want to make sure that we are making sure that, at least within the realm of my control, that we’re doing things to make sure that we don’t create other unintended consequences.

Dean Becker: A couple of weeks back, CBS did a ‘news piece’ that kind of brought focus to bare, that perhaps brought you and I together for this discussion, and they were talking about the financial setbacks, if you will, that the Constable’s Office is loosing, I think it was ten million, and Children’s Protective Service some hundred thousand / four hundred thousand? It was a large enough amount and that the Sheriff’s Office was being hit for about forty million dollars? Correct?

Sheriff Adrian Garcia: Thereabout.

Dean Becker: That’s going to make a huge difference, I would anticipate, in what you can accomplish. Your thoughts?

Sheriff Adrian Garcia: Well, this is a tough economy. This is a whole line budget and so, my attitude is that, you can’t assume that the success is strictly based on dollars. You have to look at process. You have to look at strategy. You have to look at methodology. You look at use of technology and those things, to make sure that you can continue to maintain some degree of business continuity. But obviously, anytime that you can’t count on those particular dollars, you really have to make sure your policies are set.

Dean Becker: I think they closed out that news piece, with the thought that we are sending dozens, if not - I think he said - a couple of hundred people per day, to Louisiana or other jails…

Sheriff Adrian Garcia: That’s correct.

Dean Becker: …within Texas, because of that overcrowding situation. That’s a real conundrum, isn’t it?

Sheriff Adrian Garcia: Oh it is, because there’s a dollar cost to it as well and so you have to really think through, ’How do you maintain compliance in various regards?’ We have a jail capacity. We’re over capacity. That’s why we’re using these outsource beds, but there’s a cost.

Dean Becker: Yeah. You know the discussions I’m having with all these elected officials and occasionally I get a chance to talk to a state rep and kind of, behind closed doors, they’ll agree with much of this need for change, but they tend to say, ’I can’t be the one to bring this forward’, and it’s that third rail issue. It’s that idea, that to even talk about this’ll somehow get them unelected and yet I think the financial situation and…

It’s obvious that what these cartels are doing in Mexico, is influencing that public perception that ‘getting people to rethink this whole process’ and it’s not Constable Trevino. It’s not D.A. Lykos. It’s not you. It’s not even the legislators. But, it is each. It’s all kind of a bailiwick; a woven basket of process, that needs to be unwound and redefined, I would think. Your thoughts on that?

Sheriff Adrian Garcia: Well, right now I think we find ourselves having very open and candid conversations, just as we’re doing right now. That fact that you’ve been able to have the District Attorney here, speaks to the fact that this is a much needed conversation on both sides of the aisle, if you will, and then things that are happening in other parts of the World, are obviously part of the conversation because it does play into the concerns of the public.

Dean Becker: Right now, the Mexican and Columbian cartels are raking in, some say twenty to as much as fifty billion dollars a year. The US gangs rake in more like a hundred billion per year and you worked with the gang taskforce. That was one of your prior duties before becoming Sheriff. How much influence, how much involvement had collusion… is there between these cartels and these gangs, these actions that go on around our county?

Sheriff Adrian Garcia: It has changed considerably over the last twenty to thirty years. It’s changed a great deal. In the early days and in my days growing up in a tough neighborhood, street gangs were pretty much all about just being the tough guy. You know, can you handle yourself with your fist and just hanging out at the pool hall, or just things of that nature and then when I became a young cop and did some undercover work, the typical target that I was working on was in the age rang of mid to late thirties. Sometimes even older.

One guy that I was working on for a couple of years, was in his sixties. Today that age range has dropped considerably, because the cartels have done an effective job of bringing young people into the criminal enterprise of their operations and so where we use to not see gang members involved, they’re now involved in very intricable parts of the cartel operations.

Dean Becker: I think even in the earlier days, they always liked to use younger kids, because they get a juvenile justice. They don’t face the long term sentencing perhaps, that the adults do. So they’ve always tried to influence them to bring them in.

Sheriff Adrian Garcia: For the most part, young people at that time were unassuming, in that no one expected that a young kid could be involved with something of that nature. But regretfully because of gangs continuing to be part of our society and now the cartels look at it as a way of franchising some of their operations and maximizing profits. It’s become a more usual way of doing business for them.

Dean Becker: I’ve made the statement on the show that, they don’t want just that wholesale profit, they want to move into the retail area, and that is in the United States. Am I correct?

Sheriff Adrian Garcia: That’s correct. That’s correct. We’ve got a lot of challenges on many fronts.

Dean Becker: OK. Now I did have a chance to speak with a couple of other Sheriff’s awhile back. There was a movie premier, Plata O Plomo “Silver or Lead”. I was down in Victoria and I got a chance to speak with… Let’s just go ahead and hear the interview and we’ll… I’ll get your response.
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Ziggy Gonzalez. He is the working Sheriff of Zapata County, Texas. Right there on the border.

I’ve been Sheriff in Zapata County for fourteen years now, a little over fourteen years. What I do is enforcement of nine hundred ninety-seven square miles with sixty miles of river, with the Republic of Mexico and we enforce all types of civil and criminal law.

So there’ve been times when we have received reports of people being kidnapped in our communities. Where people are being taken back to Mexico. In (?)… and I speak for the whole border area, being the chairman of the Southwestern Border Sheriffs Coalition, where we have people shooting at our officers from the Mexican side with machine guns, when we go out there to the river banks to investigate an incident that may have happened.
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Sheriff Gonzales: There was a tremendous increase in the area of Juarez and the area of El Paso and now we’re starting to see an increase again in violence along the border on the Mexican side, but there’s some spill over at the US side in the area of Del Rio, Texas and Laredo, Texas and even across from Starr County, Texas. So, it’s starting up again.

Dean Becker: Yeah. They couldn’t hold off their shipments forever. They’ve got to get that product across the border some kind of way. Right?

Sheriff Gonzales: Well, it’s true and at the same time it also (?) We saw what happened in Cajon, California where the border patrol agent was killed, shot about nine times, once in the face. A clear message to law enforcement on the US side to get out of the way.
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Dean: Perhaps we can think about regulating it and taxing it for adults. What’s your thought?

Sheriff Gonzales: On narcotics?

Dean: Yes, sir.

Sheriff Gonzales: Well that’s something that must be debated also. I think there’s a lot of pro’s and con’s in everything. My personal opinion is, it should be looked at before we make any type of decision.
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Dean Becker: Alright. Those guys have their hands full. They have very bad actors. Good God, the horrendous violence that’s going on in Mexico, Ciudad Juarez in particular. It just tears at your heart, that the City of El Paso itself is being influenced by this because they have a very reciprocating economy, if you will, that they depend on one another to keep the economy thriving and the people of Ciudad Juarez are bailing out by the tens of thousands, because no one can live there. Your thoughts, sir?

Sheriff Adrian Garcia: Well, obviously it’s a challenging situation when you exist in a bi-national environment and you have to be doubly effective in your gathering of information; of intelligence, to figure out who your anchors are. Not necessarily just in the US, but on the other side of the border.

I’ve done a lot of work with some of the communities in the past years. Mainly in the area of emergency preparedness. But you hear the conversations of how folks, either from our side flee to their side and folks from their side flee to our side, and then you hear the Border Sheriffs talking about some of the spill over that they’re dealing with.

Dean Becker: You know there’s no need to be preaching this anymore. I felt that that was my job, if you will, to preach the need for this discussion and by gosh, we’re opening that discussion and I feel so much better today.

Houston has, for decades, been the lead horse - pulling the drug war wagon in our proximity to Mexico and our numerous interstates. Along with a large metroplex to hide in, means we are one of the largest drug distribution hubs in the World and heretofore, officials have somehow remained surprised and outraged at the number of our young people, who are led to lives of crime or addiction, and the city has served as a virtual ’mouse trap’. Built not by the young people being caught, but by generations of their elders. But it’s time to undo that trap. It’s time to find a better way. Correct?

Sheriff Adrian Garcia: Without a doubt. I mean, I think that we have recognized that we are… I think part of the justice system should be about being able to make lives whole. Rebuild lives and change circumstances to try to find results from our respective strategies and given the fact that our jail systems have gotten bigger; more costly, our dockets have become much more stagnant and burdensome. Things have slowed down and come to almost a screeching halt.

I think all of these things that people have looked at and have very courageously said, ’You know what? I can’t deny that we need to do something better,’ and so I think that comment has come in really from a united voice. From various persons who typically wouldn’t be at the same table talking about the same thing, in years past.

So now, here we are and we’re looking at, ‘How can we make sure that we have a true justice system, that punishes those who create the greatest harm? That system that recognizes organic situations vs. real criminality. A justice system that says that, ‘Because you’re here but however, we recognize that it’s your addiction, more so than your actions, that have gotten you here. What is it that we can do to keep you from coming back?’

So I think that’s kind of where we’ve evolved. Otherwise we wouldn’t have a Veterans Court. We wouldn’t have a Drug Court. We wouldn’t have a lot of the change in policies that we’re looking at right now.

Dean Becker: Do they have in place or are they thinking about a “Mental Health Court“?

Sheriff Adrian Garcia: Yes, yes. It’s currently being worked on and some of those same things are incorporated into both the Drug Court and the Veterans Court.

Dean Becker: Yeah. I think that the most recent CBS piece talked about, I think it was twenty-five percent of arrests for drug charges and another thirty for mental health deviance, I don’t know how else to say it. But a total of fifty-five percent of the people in our jail, are there for health problems. Because from my perspective, addiction is a health problem.

I wanted to talk about a couple of things, here. One is, this is not your purview. I’m just telling you this because I’m afraid. I do a little bit of reporting that in the old days, I use to worry about the cops or the cartels, either one, kicking in my door. I don’t think either one of them have much to gain anymore by doing so.

But I’m looking at the bail bond situation, in this county. It’s a hundred and forty times more likely that an arrestee in Houston is going to jail, than it is for the people in Austin, and that just doesn’t seem like equal justice for me and I’m just telling you this so you know. We can move on.

{laughter}

Sheriff Adrian Garcia: That’s fine.

Dean Becker: OK. Now something that’s rarely talked about that’s never mentioned, not even by drug reformers when they get in a debate or discussion. But that is, that all hard drugs combined - Heroin, Meth, Cocaine - kill only about four times as many people as do aspirin and Tylenol and that’s despite the fact that they’re made by untrained chemists and unsanitary conditions and cut with household products, including cancer causing agents and it’s time to reassess, I would think, the whole thing.

This drug war’s been handed down like the Arch of the Covenant, as if it were blessed and sacred. But we’re beginning to find out it’s not as cohesive or actually necessary, as we once did. I’m preaching to you. I don’t want to do that. Let’s see…

{more laughter}

Dean Becker: OK. Now the US spends about seventy billion dollars a year, trying to stop the flow of drugs and the terrorists and the cartels make about three hundred eighty-five billion. That’s according to Anthony Placido. I think he’s the assistant head of the DEA. Now I wonder, given the disparity; the dollars - that’s a lot of money - seventy billion spent on the Drug War. But three hundred eighty-five billion a year over the forty years of this drug war, these cartels and these terrorists and these gangs, many of them have quite a ‘nest egg’, to fight us for a long time. Right?

Sheriff Adrian Garcia: Oh, yeah. You look at some of the dollars that have been seized. It’s in the considerable amounts. It just blows the mind as to how they’re able to accumulate that kind of wealth.

Dean Becker: Oh, yeah. You see the video of, you know, ’Here’s the gold plated guns and then all the money and all the drugs’ and it’s enormous, unbelievable actually. The last thought I shared with Judge Lykos was this, and that’s, ’Let’s judge people by their actions, not the contents of their pocket.’

That’s how America use to be a hundred years ago, before this drug war began and I think it would solve a lot of problems because it might make it easier to observe those actions and to go after those that are headed off the deep end rather than well… ninety-five percent of adult drug use is non-problematic. I think we all know that and what we’re punishing that ninety-five percent for the actions of the five percent. Your thoughts?

Sheriff Adrian Garcia: I think that a lot of the current discussion right now, the Drug Courts, the evidence of a lot of change in policy, the Drug Court, the Veteran Court, the fact that we’re pushing to have a reintegration center. I think all of these things sort of speak to the fact that, we recognize the fact some folks do have insurance and other access to situations and to circumstances and resources that will allow them to move on to a different direction.

However, a lot of folks don’t…

Dean Becker: Yeah.

Sheriff Adrian Garcia: …and so we have to depend on those social service agencies; those treatment agencies, to help us rebuild and make those lives whole again and so I think that evidence may not be as recognizable as some of these other things that your mentioning.

But it is, I think, proof of the change that has been occurring in that, both sides of the aisle are recognizing that, ’If not for this drug addiction, this person wouldn’t be in our custody. If not for this alcohol addiction, this person wouldn’t be in our custody. If not for this mental illness, this person wouldn’t be in our custody and those are circumstance that a lot of people recognize. That it is better treated and dealt with in a different environment, than a correctional environment.

Dean Becker: I see and hear a lot of people talk about moving from the criminal justice aspect of it, to one of treatment and I’m all for people who want treatment, they should have it immediately. Because so many times people, a week later they’re back into it heavy. They don’t care anymore and then there are those few who’s actions should merit, should require that they go into treatment.

But from my perspective, too many treatment beds are taken up by marijuana smokers who got caught. Because, let’s face it, pot stinks. You’re going to get caught by your parents, by your boss… it’s just going to happen. But for the most part, those are not the people who should be in those beds.

It should be those that are doing the hard drugs. Those who’s lives are being complicated and ruined. They should have the priority and I just feel like too often they say… The drug czar touts the fact that, I think, sixty-five percent of treatment beds are taken up by marijuana users and I think that’s just plain wrong. Your thoughts?

Sheriff Adrian Garcia: Well, I wouldn’t be so quick to jump to that same conclusion, given some of the things I’ve seen over my years. Because yes, in many regards you may want to be able to say that marijuana is harmless. But on the other side, from a street cops perspective, I’ve seen families that have been hurt. I have seen property damage that has occurred as a result of and a lot of young people really work to put themselves in harms way, if not for that little buzz that they got off that joint.

But I take it in context in the sense that, in all the priorities of the World, you’re right. Marijuana may fall some where’s at a lower scale. But I don’t want to mislead people to think it is as harmless as we would want to assume that it is and so there is some circumstances that we’ve seen homicides occur, as a result of. We’ve seen robberies that have occurred, as a result of and so it is, in many cases, attached to other crimes; to violent crimes.

But we don’t do a good job enough of tracking when a homicide occurred, because a guy was buzzing off of marijuana. We don’t do a good enough job of saying, ’the rape occurred because folks were high after smoking marijuana.’ We don’t do good enough tracking of those two dynamics.

But when we say, ’I was arrested because I was caught with a couple of ounces, then we say, ’Well, that was it. That’s not right. What about the murders and all the mayhem that’s occurring out there?’ So from my perspective, I’ve seen where there is tie-in to those two things. That’s why I do keep an open mind, but I do want to be careful, as we develop public policy behind a lot of these things.

Dean Becker: I agree with you, sir and again, I’ve… We’re running out of time but, here’s hoping that you will come back so that we can continue this discussion, later this year.

Sheriff Adrian Garcia: Without a doubt.

Dean Becker: OK. It will give me a chance… I think many of those problems you’re describing are the result not of getting high, but of prohibition. But we’ll delve into that later.

Sheriff Adrian Garcia: We’ll debate that one later on, Dean.

Dean Becker: OK. Once again, we’ve been speaking with the Sheriff of Harris County, Adrian Garcia. Thank you so much, sir.

Sheriff Adrian Garcia: You’re welcome. Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Dean Becker: Alright.
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It’s time to play: "Name That Drug - By It’s Side Effects!"

Nausea, heartburn, development of bleeding ulcers, vomiting, swelling of the brain, extensive liver damage, difficulty with mental functioning, Reye’s syndrome and death.

(((gong)))

Time’s up! The answer: Aspirin.

Another FDA approved product.
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A message about Cannabis. From former Sheriff’s deputy, Jeffrey Studdard:

Like many other cops and law enforcement professionals, I’ve seen first hand that the current approach on Cannabis, is simply not working. It’s led to violent drug cartels, dealers in our schools and our streets and costs millions of dollars, without reducing consumption. That’s why cops support Tax Cannabis 2010. The initiative to control and tax Cannabis.

It will provide billions to fund what matters and allow police to focus on violent crime. It’s time to control it and tax it.
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If you believe it’s time to end Cannabis prohibition, make a donation to Tax Cannabis 2010. Help spread the word about this common sense solution for a broken budget and a failed government policy. Learn more at taxcannabis.org or call (510) 251-2507. Join the historic fight to change the system at taxcannabis.org.

Paid for by Tax Cannabis 2010 with major funding from S.K. Seymour, LLC - a medical Cannabis provider, DBA, Oaksterdam University, a Cannabis educator.
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Alright, my friends. I hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Cultural Baggage. It was an honor to have Sheriff Adrian Garcia with us and you know, you guys have to help do your part but as always I remind you, that because of prohibition, you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please, be careful.
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To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth.

This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.
Tap dancing on the edge on an abyss.

Submitted by: C. Assenberg of www.marijuanafactorfiction.org