In the 1980s, there were two ways to make big bucks in the Big Apple: sell drugs or rob drug dealers. The main characters in this story did both, and they weren’t worried about the cops, because they were the cops. Drug dealers with a badge, criminals in a squad car, the Cocaine Cops of the NYPD were the most powerful drug gang in Brooklyn.
Some say that what happened in the 1980s was, when studied in retrospect, a well-orchestrated moral panic of manufactured nonsense, bullshit, and scare tactics about crack cocaine for the purpose of passing repressive, punitive legislation aimed primarily at minorities—Blacks and Hispanics.
In their book, Policing the Crisis: Mugging, The State, and Law and Order, Stuart Hall and his coauthors Chas Chitcher, Tony Jefferson, John Clarke, and Brian Roberts detailed the telltale signs of a manufactured moral panic.
1. When the official reaction is out of all proportion to the actual threat.
2. When experts, in the form of police chiefs, the judiciary, politicians, and editors perceive the threat in all but identical terms and appear to talk with one voice.
3. When the media representations universally stress sudden and dramatic increases in the situation.
Crack is essentially cocaine which can be smoked and was developed as an alternative to marijuana following the return of repressive marijuana laws. It came to America and became quite popular, and according to a former FBI sub-contractor we interviewed, it was intentionally promoted in America’s ghettos to insure an ongoing prisoner class of citizens to arrest, prosecute, and fill our ever-expanding for-profit prisons.
President Ronald Reagan gave speeches warning more and more of the crack crises, and other politicians followed his lead. The mayor of New York City, Ed Koch, urged the death penalty to be imposed on any drug dealer convicted for the possession of at least a kilogram of cocaine. A few months after him, the governor of New York, Mario Cuomo, suggested that a life sentence should be given to anyone convicted of selling $50 worth of crack. Nancy Reagan’s office gave America the “Just Say No” campaign which stigmatized the casual drug user as an “accomplice to murder.”
As the legal scholar Michelle Alexander noted, “in an effort to secure funding for the new war, Reagan actually hired staff in 1985 to publicize the emergence of crack cocaine in crime-infested neighborhoods.”
The propaganda expanded, and more organizations were created with the aim of “raising awareness”: College Challenge, World Youth against Drug Abuse, The Just Say No Club, PRIDE, STOPP, Responsible Adolescents Can Help, Youth to Youth, and Partnership for a Drug-Free America.
“What one can find really amusing about these organizations,” wrote sociologist Dimitar Panchev, “is that soon after the end of the moral panic all of them folded and even ceased to exist!”
It may have been a “crises” to exploit for lawmakers, but it was also a “craze” to exploit for those who sold the drug that was getting millions of dollars in free advertising every day via radio, television, and print.
Coke was everywhere, and folks from Manhattan to Santa Monica were snorting, smoking, or shoving it up their butts to get high.
“Everybody was on drugs, everybody was fucked up,” one New York resident recalled in a documentary directed by Al Profit. “One out of five families had someone who was earning a good living with it.”
That “everybody” included a hell of a lot of cops of the NYPD, including Ken Eurell, partner of the notorious Michael Dowd. Betrayal in Blue is adapted directly from Ken’s personal memoir, giving you the true inside story of Mike and Ken, their wives and families, and the corrosive power of corruption. This is the first time the true inside story of this horrific scandal of drugs and corruption has been put in perspective.