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Cops & Heroin

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"The lOth Precinct is the tip of the iceberg. Dope distribution is still rampant in our city. These big dealers cannot opérate without official collaboration. " -Mayor Coleman Young Heroin goes by many names in the street- junk, smack, skag, H, the White Witch. William S. Burroughs called it the perfect product. But it's best described as the plague. When life is heil, it's a private heaven in a syringe. It's a prison without walls for the junkie. It keeps everybody else uptight, wondering if they'll be the next to get ripped off. The white powder comes in from Turkey, from Mexico, from Southeast Asia. It gets cut several times along the way. At every stop, there are officials to be paid off. By the time it hits the street, it's more pieeious than gold. But the price will be paid. The puslier is a hard slavemaster. The junkie will raise the price of a fix by any means necessary. Those that can't wil! get sickei than you can imagine. Those who get caught ripping off will kick in a real prison cell, cold turkey. Those who ask for help will be i to metha Before (hey got kicked out ol Laos, the CIA ficw the dope to Ameriai on its private airline. After tlie riots, the ghetto was fiooded with it. Movies were made about sttper-hero cops wlio shot it out witli the Mob to break the big international connections. Stil! the plague spread.. 1 1 's the cops' job to try to stop this. Until we can figure out some better way to put the pushen out of business, until we can offer people more than a needie to ease the pain, we need the pólice to intercept the shipments, to bust the parasites who are dealing heroin, and to try and find out where they got il. But what if the cops look the other way? Even worse, what if they're lielpingl A cop with information is in a position to take a já Continued on page 2 ■ Cops & Heroin Continued from the cover cut of üie money. He can take some of the dope and sell it. He can shake down dealers for sport. He can use a dealer to get inforfnation on other dealers, raid their houses, keep the dope and the bread, and let them go. This is no movie, people. This is what the lOth Precinct Cqnspiracy Trial is all about. Nine cops and seven civilians got caught doing these very things in Detroit's lOth Precinct. Until Coleman Young was elected two years ago, they were getting away with it. Considering how long the cops have been running things, it's hard to believe there isn't a lot more where this carne from. We really don't know how many cops all over this city are mixed up in this, or how high in the DPD the conspiracy reaches. But here's what it took to fïnd out what we do know: Four years ago, Howard Kohn, a young Free Press reporter, took it upon himself to spend two years hanging out on the dope scène, disguised as a junkie, to find out how the business worked and who was involved in it. In April 1973, the names and addresses of the city's biggest pushers, along with some of the Detroit cops who worked with them, hit page one. But just as Kohn was ready to reveal the full extent of pólice collusion in the trade, right up to the higher echelons at 1 300 Beaubien, he was kidnapped, driven around, pressured to teil who his sources were. After escaping from this ordeal, understandably feeling tremendous emotional pressure, Kohn lied to the pólice about the unregistered gun he had bought to protect himself. The Free Press, faced with a story much too hot to handle, fired Kohn and dropped the investigation. Meanwhile, however, Kohn was sharing his information with George Bennett, a black pólice lieutenant who had forced Commissioner John Nichols to give him a special task forcé to investígate pólice involvement in the heroin trade. Bennett, working with a $20,000 contract out on his life, in a city and a department dominated by law-and-order honkies, where STRESS was shooting down black people in the streets and getting away with it, put together enough evidence to get indictments against the sixteen people whose fate will soon be decided in Judge Ravitz' courtroom. To do it, he had to raid the narcotics office in the lOth Precinct itself, where he found enough dope and works to keep the neighborhood high for a week. After five months in Recorder's Court, with the moment of truth nearing and several convictions likely, the cops on trial have been attacking Bennett with a vengeance. When this happens, the Free Press puts the story back on page one, as it did when Sgt. Rudy Davis cried on the witness stand. When the prosecution's witnesses were describing in lurid detail how the cops worked with them, the story had to be dug out of Section B - if it ran at all. All this is too much for the Free Press. lts reporters have been issuing pólice reports as news for too long. Knight Newspapers apparently has too much of a stake in the fantasy of the pólice as dedicated, friendly public servants to take their heads out of the sand. Howard Kohn sold a lot of papers as long as he was only talking about the occasional cop on the take. When he wanted to get into the higher-ups in the department. he was sent packing. A lot of people besides the Frec Press are working hard to keep the cops' image together. Every new TV season brings us more shows portraying the pólice as heroic defenders of the people, truth, and the American way. You won't see The Rookies mixed up with pushers, no way. They don't take bribes. They don't beat people down at the station. They don't take pot shots at black teenagers running away from them, scared out of their wits. They work long hours at a thankless job, and beneath that badge Teats a heart of gold. For many cops, it may well be so. Would that there were more. But in Detroit, everybody from the Mayor down tó people on the continued on page 30 GORRECTION The anide in our last issue on "The People 's Pólice Forcé: Is It Happening?" should npt have been attributed to Margaret Borys, since it no longer accurately reflected her viewpoint af ter editing by the SUN staff. Pólice & Heroin continued f rom page 2 street knows better. There have been too many heads craoked over the years, too few George Bennetts. An honest cop who wants to stay clear of all the negativity has a hard enough time of it, let alone anyone who wants the crooked ones locked up and sets out to do just that. That's why the lOth Precinct Conspiracy Trial is so important. You wouldn't know it to read the papers, but compared to this, the radical show trials of the past decade- Angela Davis, the Chicago Seven, Joan Little- were not much more than side shows. When you talk about sending cops to jail for working hand in hand with pushers, you're not only messing with individuals who were riding high off the misery of junkies. You're messing with the image of the pólice. You're saying that the people we pay to stop crime are committing it , that the very people who are supposed to protect the citizens of this community from the plague are helping to spread it. And that's dangerous. Somehow, if we're ever going to make this place safe to live in again, if we're going to keep more people from going down the tubes, we have to find a way to bust up the heroin business. Nobody has come up with a foolproof way to do that yet, short of a total restructuring of the society. In the meantime, we have to make the pólice do their jobs. If they're mixed up in the heroin trade as this trial suggests, we have to make it hot'for them. We have to put people on the job who are serious about stopping the plague. And we have to stop pretending that it couldn't happen here. It has happened. If it takes a dozen conspiracy trials to make the point, let's get on with it.