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Kerlikowske, Gil (Drug Czar)

Title: Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy
Reports to: President Obama
Confirmed by Senate: May 7, 2009
Department that handles similar issues: Justice Department
Duties: Directs drug-control policy in the U.S.; is expected to shift drug policy from punishment to intervention and treatment.

  • Joined the St. Petersburg, Florida police force in 1972
  • Served as police chief in Fort Pierce, Florida and Port St. Lucie, Florida
  • Served as police chief for the city of Buffalo, New York (1994 to 1998)
  • Was Deputy Director of the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (1998 to 2000)
  • Was police chief for the city of Seattle from 2000-2009
  • As Seattle police chief, he assigned an officer full-time to the drug court, which commuted sentences of drug users who completed medical treatment in lieu of going to jail.
  • In 2001 he deployed hundreds of police officers to monitor a chaotic area for Mardi Gras in Seattle, but when violent riots (in which one person died) broke out, the police, on Kerlikowske’s orders, waited until the crowd dispersed before moving in to stop the violence. His decision to have the police initially hold back drew much criticism.
  • In March 2007, the NAACP and the Minority Executive Directors Coalition called for Kerlikowske’s resignation, after he had failed to take disciplinary action against police officers who allegedly had mistreated a black suspect.
  • Advocates strong gun-control measures; urged both the Washington state legislature and the U.S. Congress to pass an assault-weapons ban.
  • Is a close confidante of Attorney General Eric Holder
  • In May 2009, Kerlikowske announced that the Obama administration would no longer use the term "War on Drugs," calling it counter-productive to his effort to emphasize treatment over incarceration. He said: "Regardless of how you try to explain to people it's a 'war on drugs' or a 'war on a product,' people see a war as a war on them. We're not at war with people in this country."
  • Opposes the legalization of drugs that are currently illegal, such as marijuana
  • Wants to eliminate the sentencing disparity between powder cocaine violations and crack cocaine violations; the latter, which most often involve black perpetrators, are much more severe; Kerlikowske views the disparity as evidence of racism in the criminal-justice system.

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