05/02/10 - Clarence Bradford

Clarence Bradford, former police chief and current city councilmember of Houston + Beto O'Rourke a courageous El Paso city councilman discuss horrors & failures of drug war

Century of Lies
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Clarence Bradford
Houston City Council
Download: Audio icon COL_050210.mp3


Century of Lies May 2. 2010

{howling winds}

The winds of prohibition howl
As the irrational maelstrom blows.
Pipe-dreaming warriors raise their eternal chant
Dancing for rain in the eye of a ‘drug war’ hurricane.

Welcome to this special edition of Century of Lies. The first ever two parter in conjunction with, our first half hour, Cultural Baggage. Our guests are Houston City councilman Clarence Bradford, the former Police Chief of Houston and the courageous El Paso City Councilman Beto O’Rourke, who sees on a daily basis the horrors inflicted in his sister city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

Alright, this is Dean Becker. You are listening to Century of Lies. We do have with us in-studio, Clarence Bradford, former Police Chief. Hello, sir.

Mr. Clarence Bradford: Thank you. Pleased to be here, Dean.

Dean Becker: We have on the phone with us, Beto O’Rourke. The councilman out of El Paso. Hello, Beto.

Mr. Beto O’Rourke: Hi, Dean.

Dean Becker: Beto we have, in the last few years across this country, began to examine this process. We are beginning to look at it. A lot of people don’t want to address certain aspects of it. Maybe dealing with marijuana, Medical Marijuana whatever. But it is the whole process, the policy of prohibition, that gives reason for these cartels to be across that border and crossing into our states as well and it gives reason for the gangs to exist.

I was looking at a story today from the El Paso Times. They’re talking about a case against the Texas-Mexican Mafia Prison gang. They’re talking about commissary, that’s all that comes in. It says, ’Drugs you can get. You don’t even have to ask for that. It just flows in towards you. Girls bring it in, in visitation. Contraband is smuggled in by corrupt guards, lawyers and visitor.

Once released, the gang members are expected to report to gang leaders on the outside, that attend gang meetings and contribute to the gangs money making operations’ and one of the ways they are doing that now, is by serving the interest; by providing services for the cartels. It’s just absolutely insane, isn’t it?

Me. Beto O’Rourke: It is. Again, I try to make this point to people when I’m talking to Rotary Clubs or different groups about what’s going on here. Because I think I’m like a lot of people; a lot of my constituents that I represent here in El Paso. This is not an issue I ever thought about and frankly I respect all the different positions that are taken by proponents of changing the terms of the drug war or ending the drug war or rethinking prohibition.

But I wouldn’t be persuaded enough by the Civil Liberties aspect of it. Even by the economic issues. Even by the disproportionate sentencing. All those things that I’ve become aware of, since I’ve thought about it and which I think are valid now. The thing that got my attention was the violence and the death and the staggering bloodshed in Ciudad Juarez.

Again, when you trace it to it’s source, it’s the fact that you’ve got these, essentially drug consumers in the US who have an insatiable demand to put something in their system to change their state of consciousness. Whether it’s dope or cocaine or whatever it is. Despite the fact that many of these people are directly contributing to deaths in communities like Juarez, they won’t stop buying the stuff. I wish I could change that. I frankly wish law enforcement was a solution that worked. ’Cause that would be fine for me, at least for the interest of my community.

Unfortunately and sadly, it is not a solution that works and so you then think through the next steps of the problem and you realize that, if you could somehow regulate and control one of those drugs, the one that has a preponderance of harm in terms of the amount of money coming into these drug trafficking organizations, and that’s marijuana.

If you could change the terms of just that one drug, you would do a significant amount to destabilize these cartels. Weaken their power and their influence and change the terms of the game in Mexico and Ciudad Juarez and give Law Enforcement in that country and civilian government in that country, and opportunity to re-establish control.

Essentially that’s where I am and I think that’s where a lot of us who are newly engaged in the conversation are. We didn’t come into the debate persuaded on the civil liberties side or all the other valid arguments about this. It was really life or death. We’re seeing people slaughtered in our community, everyday. Some days, over twenty people are killed, just related to drug consumption and drug profits for the US consumer here. If we could turn that off in the US, believe me I’d do it. Unfortunately, history proves that we can’t. So we need to deal with it in a different way.

I don’t pretend to have all the solutions or maybe even any of them. I just think that one of the things that has to be on the table is prohibition and rethinking the terms and rethinking our relationship with Mexico when it comes to this drug transiting and drug sales. There are people who are much better, in terms of their experience and in terms of their knowledge, on the issue.

I would even defer to Councilmember Bradford and I know that other law enforcement officials have actually visited Mexico, I think. Famously, Giuliani set up a consulting company. Sent up to Mexico City. Was going to try to help Mexico solve their law enforcement problems. They were unable to do so.

I would wager that part of that was because they haven’t dealt with the source root of the problem, which is drug trade and drug prohibition. But there are smarter people than I, on this. I just know as someone in this region, who’s witnessing this day by day, that we need a better solution than the policy that’s currently in place today.

Dean Becker: Beto, I want to thank you for that. I don’t want to rain on your parade, but I want to say something. If every American quit using drugs, just forswore them and quit immediately, we only represent five percent of the Earths population. That problem in Mexico, it might head to the coast or something, but it would still continue.

Mr. Beto O’Rourke: Unfortunately though, we’re twenty-five percent of the Worlds drug market. We are just economically and from a law enforcement perspective and in our sway with other countries from the UN to Latin America, we really call the shots. Unfortunately, in this case. While I agree with you that that demand might pop up somewhere else if it were depressed here in the US, the fact is you do have a serious demand here.

One thing that I do want to say to your listeners is, and it may be unpopular and you may disagree but, I think if you are buying drugs, or using drugs, or know someone who is, and there’s a chance that those drugs came from Mexico, you are directly contributing to the killing and the deaths, that we’re seeing in our community. So I’d ask you or really anyone listening to the show, to think about that moral component to your consumptions habits that, ‘If those drugs are coming from Mexico, people are dying to get them to you.’ and that’s the message that I need to get out there.

I don’t know that that message, in and of itself, will change things or work. But I feel compelled to say it. Because again, I can’t stress how sad it is, what we’re seeing here in Juarez. Something needs to change and it’s either going to be the consumption or the laws in the US and we’ll try to work at both. But one of them has to give at some point.

Dean Becker: Thank you, Beto. Your thoughts, Mr. Bradford.

Mr. Clarence Bradford: Thank you, thank you. Economics tend to get people’s attention. Now whether it is economics, civil liberties, death or violence, the question becomes, ‘How do we impact the cartels’ resources?’ We know simply throwing more money at the problem doesn’t help. We don’t have the money to throw at the problem. Putting more uniforms on the ground, that isn’t the answer. When we tried that for a few decades. That hadn’t worked.

We simply might have to, in my view, bring the experts together. Bring some of the people in the field together. Some of the users together. Some of the victims together and have a healthy dialog to discuss what can and should be done from a policy standpoint and not just walk away after having had that discussion.

Take action! Modify the policies whether they’re nationally, regionally or locally. Modify those policies to be consistent with the action that came out of the discussion. We can no longer continue to go down the trail we’re going down. We simply cannot afford it, due to the deaths that we are suffering now. The violence is up and I don’t see it getting any better.

Dean Becker: No, no. I think Beto, you had indicated as much earlier, right? I mean it’s just this years death toll indicates it’s going to be larger than last years. Right?

Mr. Beto O’Rourke: Yeah. I have nothing to compare it to, because we’ve not lived through anything like that in our generation. The last violence of this cataclysmic level was probably in this region, was the Mexican Revolution in 1910. It’s almost a hundred years before. The numbers can be numbing, you know. Five thousand killed. Five thousand’s such a big number, it’s hard for that to have an impact.

But when you live in this city or this region and you read the individual stories every day, including young children - little boys, little girls - who are killed. In some cases, not incidentally. There was one that I related to Dean earlier, about a young boy from El Paso. Went to Glen Cove Elementary. Was visiting his father in Ciudad Juarez. His father was killed in his car. The gunman pulled up, killed the father. The little boy was able to get out of the car, started running down the street and was pursued by the gunman and shot in the back of the head.

So the killing is again, there’s a terroristic fashion to it. There’s an incredibly sad aspect to everything that’s going on and many times I feel like law enforcement in this region and political leaders try to make us feel better about it by saying, ’We don’t need to get so wound up about it.’ ‘These are just cartels killing members of other cartels.’ ’It’s bad people killing bad people.’ Kind of, I think, implying, ‘You really shouldn’t worry about it. This is good riddance,’ and we just know from the stories we’re reading everyday, that that’s just not the case. That’s certainly probably part of it, but innocent people are dying.

Then you also have to ask yourself, ’Who deserves to die this way?’ ‘Is it the policeman who took a bribe one time, doesn’t want to do it anymore and is killed for doing so?’ ‘Is it the person who’s selling dope on the street corner in Ciudad Juarez, making twenty-five bucks a day? Working for a rival cartel?’

When you get to those level of questions, you realize that there’s a fundamental problem here that needs to be addressed fundamentally. Which unfortunately as a country, and probably when we put our two countries in this category, we’ve just been unwilling to do for far too long and we’re now reaping the consequences of that.

Dean Becker: Alright. Once again, that was Beto O’Rourke, El Paso City Councilman. We have with us in-studio, Mr. Clarence Bradford. A Houston City Councilman, our former Police Chief. A couple of days back, the Houston Chronicle had a story:

“Seven local residents were arrested, accused of being part of a cocaine trafficking ring. They searched four residences. They found a hundred forty-seven kilograms of cocaine, eleven assault rifles, five pistols, drug ledgers and a hydraulic cocaine press, as well as a quarter million dollars.”

Now that story comes across at least once a month. That there’s a major drug bust and it’s touted as being ’The beginning of the end.’ ‘The solution is at hand.’ But it’s just a repetition. It goes on all the time. Right, Chief?

Mr. Clarence Bradford: Yes, it makes the news. ‘There’s the bust.’ ‘There’s the story.’ But what happens after that? We don’t know the rest of the story. It’s not reported. For each one of those busts that are made, there are dozens and dozens and dozens of others that are not made, that are not even known about and we know that.

The question becomes, ’What should we do to continue to risk law enforcement lives? To try to do something that we know, from a society standpoint, may not be accomplishable?’ Certainly the last decades, have indicated we’ve made very, very little progress. Again, I believe that people tend to respond to economics. How much are we going to continue to deploy, in the manner that we have deployed it? How many lives are we going to destroy, because our policy’s wrong?

I don’t mean necessarily that ‘You break the law you shouldn’t receive a sanction.‘ Because you should. The question becomes, ’What should the law be?’ and ’What is a reasonable and just sanction, given the continuing threat that you pose to the community? Or does not pose to the community?’

Today we’re throwing everybody into the same pod, treating everybody the same and I think that we are absolutely destroying some families, as well as blocking precious detention space that could and should be there, to detain some very violent people who do pose a treat to our community and we release them early. Because we say we don’t have the space. Unconscionable.

Dean Becker: Exactly right, my friend. We have over the years, I would think on a yearly basis, millions of police man hours invested in digging in car trunks and ashtrays and under car seats. Looking for that lucid little bag of weed, or coke even. When, as my friend Howard Wooldridge of LEAP said, ’Meantime, the drunks and the child molesters are driving by, while that cop’s got his head under the seat looking for that “user amount of drugs”. It’s squandering that manpower. Is it not, Chief?

Mr. Clarence Bradford: Well certainly police departments, all of them, spend thousands of hours each week on trying to effectively interdict drugs. Now it’s to the point where there’s simply a scintilla of drugs on a spoon. There’s a smidget amount where drug paraphernalia, the quantity is so small where once the examination is tested to secure the evidence, there’s none left. Just a smidget of it.

We have to simply decide, ‘What do we want to spend these resources on, in the long run?’ ’What impact are we having?’ I think that we know that boys and girls tend to - it’s learned behavior. No such thing as a good kid or a bad kid. It’s all learned behavior.

We have teenagers selling drugs. More so today, than in the past. Why? We have students that are joining gangs, being drawn into gang activity. Why more so today, than in the past? Simply because some of the drugs, the low end drugs like marijuana, etc. They’re easy to get. They are used as resources to fund the gangs and keep the gang activity up and it’s glamorous for the young boys and girls getting into that activity. We can do something about that and we should. We must.

Dean Becker: We must. OK. Beto, I understand you have another engagement you need to get to here soon. But I want to thank you for joining us. I wondered if you had a couple of closing thoughts you’d like to relay?

Mr. Beto O’Rourke: Well, I just wanted to say, it’s been a real pleasure to be on the show and to listen to Councilmember Bradford and I feel, just from his comments today and a little bit that I’ve read about him online, here from El Paso. I know that Houston is in good hands and I feel like he’s approached the conversation and topic today, with common sense. Which is all that anyone could really ask for and I think he hit it right on the head earlier when he said, it’s about the economics and there’ll be many different issues that compel different segments of the community that’s engaged on this issue.

But ultimately, what drives things in our country and in the world at large, are the economics of the issue. We know that when we make something dear, there’s a higher profit on it. When we push it underground, we move the market underground and we remove the controls on who sells and to whom it is sold, including children. There are consequences for that.

As a country, we can decide that that’s what we want to do. We can say that these drugs are so pernicious that we’re willing to take the risk that they’ll end up in the hands of our kids. That they’ll empower the drug cartels, etc. But we should make that decision logically, with our eyes wide open and make it an honest decision.

I think that we need to have that discussion that he talked about earlier and as he said, ‘Not leave that discussion with the satisfaction of having had it. But leave it with the understanding that we now have to do something about it.’ I think that’s what this country has long needed. So, look forward to hearing more from the Councilmember in the future and I want to thank you again, Dean, for the work that you do, in bringing these issues out and talking about them and thanks for having me on the show.

Dean Becker: Beto, thank you so much. Mr. Bradford?

Mr. Clarence Bradford: Mr. O’Rourke, a pleasure sharing the airtime with you. God’s speed and stay strong and hopefully we can keep pushing this issue forward and some real common sense comes to the picture. Thank you.

Mr. Beto O’Rourke: Thank you. Thanks, a lot.

Dean Becker: OK. We’ll be back here in just a little bit. I have a little message I want to share with you and I think… I’m sorry. All the phone calls have dropped off. I took too long. But, here. Give us this little thirty second break. We’ll be right back with Police Chief, Clarence Bradford.


That is the sound of the American society, economy, the people, shooting themselves in the foot.


Continuously. {gunshot}

Twenty-four hours per day. {gunshot}

Seven days per week. {gunshot}

For eternity. {gunshot}

In order to wage the war on drugs. {gunshot} Ahhhhh.

Please visit drugtruth.net

Alright. You are listening to the Century of Lies show on the Drug Truth Network. We’ve been speaking with Beto O’Rourke, El Paso City Councilman. But he’s gone onto another engagement. We have with us in-studio, Houston City Councilman Clarence Bradford. Our former Police Chief.

Chief, I saw you got a little smile, listening to that ’shooting ourselves in the foot’ PSA. What’s your thoughts, sir? We have shot ourselves in the foot repeatedly, on this. Haven’t we?

Mr. Clarence Bradford: I think it’s fair to ask the broad question, as it relates to the war on drugs. Where has the success been? Where is the progress? I think those are fair questions and I challenge anyone out there, whether you’re appointed or elected, community, civic, religious or otherwise, to come forward and discuss those issues. Where is the progress? Where has the success been? I see very, very little success and I could give you just a volume of failures that are there and volumes of resources that have been utilized.

So I think it’s time to do something differently. Again, I’m not saying that everybody should start using. Everybody should follow the law. But at the same time, let’s have a healthy, productive, detailed discussion about what the policy should be in this area, in this state, in this nation. That’s going to get us where we’re trying to get to and where we’re trying to get to? I think that should be part of the discussion. Because there are some people who will say, ‘No.’ That some level of drugs that are characterized as illegal today, should be legalized. Some say decriminalize it. Others say let’s leave it illegal, but lessen the sanction.

There needs to be discussions about all those types of things, because we know that people expectations have in fact changed from ten years ago. Certainly from fifty/sixty years ago. America is still a great country, but the expectations and it’s fair to say some of the value in our country have changed as well. So as long as we continue to put the blinders on and march on down the trail like, ‘We’re making progress.‘ ‘We’re doing the right thing,’ ’Boy, we’re being successful.’ We keep exhausting all of these resources.

We see personnel in the community. Innocent people, families, children, law enforcement personnel getting hurt and getting killed and we ask the question, ’Where’s the success?’ ’Where’s the progress?’ Those who’ve given their lives and those who’ve been injured, we respect those people. Because they were trying to enforce the law on the books today. But I think from a policy standpoint, we have to respond to today’s needs and what’s expected from today’s citizenry and move forward from that point.

Dean Becker: You know, Chief? I am a member of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. We claim that there is a better way and that is, to legalize and tax and regulate the distribution of these drugs, of these so-called controlled substances, to adults. One way I like to clarify this. Let’s talk about heroin. Let’s talk about cocaine or meth. The fact is that, danger is inherent in life on this planet. That we are afraid of some things, righteously so and other times we are not. Because we trust people to drive down the road at seventy miles an hour with a two ton vehicle and so forth.

One thing I ran into… Me and my boys, about ten years ago, went camping in Yellowstone and we wanted to go backpacking and camp near this lake called Grizzly Lake and the Game Warden said, “Grizzly Lake? Are you sure?” He took us in, made us watch a video to talk about how to store your food and behave properly and so forth. We signed off on it and then he said, “OK. You got a permit. You can go camp at Grizzly Lake.” and he said, “You should be advised. There are a lot of Grizzly Bears around Grizzly Lake.”

Now we climbed up and it started to raining and it was getting dark and we turned around and went back. Part of it was the fear of those Grizzly’s. But secondarily, they were allowing us to go camp amongst Grizzly’s, with very little experience. But we had to watch the video and we had to sign a permit and we had to take them off the hook. But we were being allowed to go into a very dangerous situation, with a permit. Your thoughts?

Mr. Clarence Bradford: That sounds like America. That sounds like the America that we dream about, the America our forefathers fought for. It’s about choice.

Dean Becker: Yeah. OK and I apologize for the phone. I normally don’t take phone calls. I’m told we do have somebody on line one. Thank you. You’re on the air.

Caller (Physician): Yes, I’m a physician in the Houston area and I would like to very briefly talk about this from a public health viewpoint and at the same time, respectfully disagree with Councilman from El Paso. What I heard the Councilman say was that the users, consumers of illegal drugs in Texas and the United States, should feel guilty about their roll in producing this problem of violence across the border in Mexico.

But I disagree. I think those that should feel guilty, are those with a vested interest in power, to continue this drug war and those are the politicians and the lobbyists that pay off the politicians to maintain the prison industrial complex.

In other words, there’s a strong incentive among say, the people that build prisons, the people that staff prisons, their Unions, the politicians, the rural areas that depend on these institutions economically, to continue this drug war, because it ensures their jobs.

Dean Becker: OK. I tell you what, we’re about out of time. Let me let the Councilman answer that.

Mr. Clarence Bradford: I think there’s some merit in what the caller has to say, in that if you incarcerate an addict and that addict is to be released, they’ve been incarcerated but they still have the addiction problem. I think education and treatment must be a major component of our program, of a strategy of a policy here.

Caller (Physician): Users of marijuana are not addicted to marijuana. Look, I’m a physician, I’ve studied this for years. Marijuana is not something I choose to use. But I know marijuana is a far less dangerous drug than aspirin. Aspirin kills more people in the United States than marijuana. Marijuana’s got one of the largest therapeutic safety factors of any substance in the world.

Mr. Clarence Bradford: Thank you, thank you.

Caller (Physician): Even for the dangerous drugs.

Mr. Clarence Bradford: Thank you, thank you. My comment was not exclusively limited to marijuana, but our controlled substance across the board. I think that the policy discussion must be had and it must be broad inclusive strategies in place to deal with the issue.

Dean Becker: Doctor, I appreciate your call and I would just say this, that next time the legislature has a Medical Marijuana Bill before them, go give them your two cents. Heck, give them the double barrel buckshot, as far as I’m concerned. But the fact of the matter, I agree with you and I work to prove that point on a weekly basis.

Truth be told, I have smoked marijuana, nearly everyday for the last forty-five years. I’ve succeeded in every endeavor I’ve ever attempted and it has not been a detriment to my progress. We’ve got time for one more caller on line two. Please make it quick.

Please make it quick, caller.


Caller: Yes.

Dean Becker: Quickly, your thoughts?

Caller: When methamphetamines were being made, they emit a foul odor. Is there any information as to what odor indicates what drug is being made?

Dean Becker: Chief, I know it stinks, but I don’t know the answer to the specifics.

Mr. Clarence Bradford: I think it takes someone with the expertise beyond me as a laboratory person to do that. Certainly, working with the narcotics, the officers in the field develop the instinct that you are mentioning here. I don’t want to sit here and say that, what drugs omits what odors but I can tell you, meth does. It omit’s a very distinctive odor and we know what that is, amongst some of the other drugs out there.

Dean Becker: Alright. Well friends, I appreciate the calls. I appreciate Beto O’Rourke, El Paso City Councilman, being with us. Chief Bradford, as always, it’s an honor to sit down and talk this over with you. I see progress on the horizon. I do. I think the fact that politicians and law enforcement are starting to talk about it, here in this town.

We’re out of money. Our jails are overcrowded and whatever the process you want to call it, we’re contributing to major violence in Mexico, Columbia, Central/South America, Afghanistan and all over the dang world. Because the US insists on believing that it’s possible to stop everybody. To stop the hundred million users, the ten million growers and the million or two traffickers, who make a living at this, from just giving it up. It’s just not going to happen.

As always I remind you, there is not truth, justice, logic, scientific fact, medical data, no scientific information, no reason for this drug war to exist. We’ve been duped. The drug lords run both sides of this equation. Please visit our website: endprohibition.org

Prohibido istac evilesco.

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Dean Becker. Asking you to examine our policy of Drug Prohibition.

The Century of Lies.

This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston

Transcript provided by: C. Assenberg of www.marijuanafactorfiction.org