Not Just a Czar, A Dad Feels Pain
by Norm Kent
Seattle police Chief Gil Kerlikowske has been tabbed by President Obama to assume the role of the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, putting him in position to become the nation's so-called drug czar. It is an office whose policies I have challenged repeatedly. Most drug law reformers have. For starters, Russia has czars. We do not need any position in America that begins and ends with the word czar.
Drug reform advocates are enthused that Kerlikowske will bring a new focus to the position, balancing traditional law enforcement efforts against drug trafficking with support for court programs that steer drug users into treatment and tolerance for needle-exchange programs and medical marijuana laws.
Kerlikowske, 59, has a perspective on the problem not only as a police chief but because as a father, he has had to deal with the problems of a difficult son. We have seen this before from Vice Presidents to County Commissioners. You hope your kid winds up being the valedictorian at Harvard, and not the guy asking if you want to supersize it. Things don’t always work out as we plan. The drug wars have victims. They usually are our friends, families, ad neighbors.
The Police Chief has a son from a broken marriage with a significant criminal history, and it includes arrests for felony battery, domestic violence, marijuana possession and distribution. He was released from prison for battery only last March, and he has more than just an open case in Broward. He is locked up in jail right now on a violation of probation. That is the picture of Jeffery Kerliskowske, about 39 years old above. He looks unhappy.
I feel for the dad, and apparently he understands the issue of drug abuse is one many families have endured. In his remarks prepared for the nomination, Chief Kerliskowske stated:
"Our nation's drug problem is one of human suffering, As a police officer, but also in my own family, I have experienced firsthand the devastating effects that drugs can have on our youth, our families and our communities."
The Chief has seen it all starting his law enforcement as a street cop in St. Petersburg, Fla., in 1972 , and then went on to serve as chief in two Florida cities, Fort Pierce and Port St. Lucie, before shuffling off to Buffalo. He is now very well respected in Seatlle, and I have dealt with Seattle police each year at their annual hempfest, attended by over 100,000 drug reformers on Elliot Bay. There have been difficulties, of course, but the police and the pot enthusiasts have worked together well. He is part of a community which recognizes the need for medical marijuana. More importantly, the issue is one which penetrates his soul, his family, his heart.
I suspect we will hear a lot about Chief Kerlikowske. I hope his son gets the help he needs. I hope the Chief will bring this country the new direction on drug policies our nation needs.
What was it Aeschylus once wrote:
“He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.”
Good Luck, Chief, with your job; with your son.