Is the War on Drugs the Cause of the Recent Police Shootings?

By Seth Ferranti 07/12/16

Presidential candidate Gary Johnson is calling the War on Drugs "the root cause" of police brutality. But is it that simple?

Is the War on Drugs the Cause of the Recent Police Shootings?

Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson has alluded in a recent interview that the drug war is responsible for the latest rash of police shootings that are currently plaguing African Americans in the United States. He says miscommunication and a lack of trust and confidence in law enforcement, due to the long-running War on Drugs which has unfairly targeted minorities, has strained relations between cops and the African-American community. Since the late 1980s, crack-cocaine offenders have been sentenced disproportionately, in comparison with white, suburban cocaine dealers, at a 100 to 1 ratio.

“The root is the War on Drugs, I believe. Police knocking down doors, shooting first,” Johnson said in an interview Friday in Washington. “If you are (black and) arrested in a drug-related crime, there is four times more likelihood of going to prison than if you are white. And shooting is part of the same phenomenon.” 

President Obama has done what he can to right the wrongs of the drug war by getting unfair crack-cocaine sentencing policies changed and commuting the sentences of the deserving, but a 30-year-plus war on the African-American citizens of this country has taken its toll. Johnson believes that the militarization of narcotic cops has precipitated the shootings, and a lot of members of the African-American community feel the same.

“I’ve been to prison three times for drugs,” Oscar, a 36-year-old African-American former crack dealer from St. Louis, tells The Fix. “I was never a big drug dealer, but I did 14 years of my life in federal prison for basically crumbs. Yeah, I was hustling and trying to get money, but I was small time. And then when I got out, I can barely get a job because of my criminal record. I can’t live with my mom because of my felony conviction. The deck is stacked against me.”

African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites. If current trends continue, one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime. Johnson recognizes that the African-American people are angry and have a right to be.

“I’m not on no Black Panther shit,” Oscar says. “But I got so many obstacles blocking my path when I try to do right that it makes it seem like going back to selling drugs is my only way to make money. A lot of ex-cons here in the city are angry. A lot of black people are angry, period. I’m not the type to shoot cops, but there are plenty that might be. Not saying that is the answer, but this issue needs to be addressed.”

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After landing on the US Marshals Top-15 Most Wanted list and being sentenced to a 25 year sentence in federal prison for a first-time, nonviolent LSD offense, Seth built a writing and journalism career from his cell block. His raw portrayals of prison life and crack era gangsters graced the pages of Don DivaHoopshype and VICE. From prison he established Gorilla Convict, a true-crime publisher and website that documents the stories that the mainstream media can’t get with books like Prison Stories and Street Legends. His story has been covered by The Washington PostThe Washington Times, and Rolling Stone.

Since his release in 2015 he’s worked hard to launch GR1ND Studios, where true crime and comics clash. GR1ND Studios is bringing variety to the comic shelf by way of the American underground. These groundbreaking graphic novels tell the true story of prohibition-era mobsters, inner-city drug lords, and suburban drug dealers. Seth is currently working out of St. Louis, Missouri, writing for The FixVICEOZY, Daily Beast, and Penthouse and moving into the world of film. Check out his first short, Easter Bunny Assassin at You can find Seth on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.