After years of overseeing drug-enforcement policies in the Seattle Police Department, former Chief Gil Kerlikowske now will take what he learned to a national stage, says the Seattle Times. The Senate confirmed him yesterday as director of National Drug Control Policy, a position commonly known as “drug czar.” Kerlikowske, a 36-year law-enforcement veteran who was Seattle’s top cop for nine years, pledged to use scientific study to shape policy. He will focus on reducing demand for illicit drugs in the U.S. – a contrast from the Bush administration’s focus on intercepting drugs as they cross the border and punishing drug crimes.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) was the only dissenting vote on confirmation. In Seattle, Kerlikowske balanced traditional law-enforcement efforts with support of drug-courts that steer users into treatment to avoid criminal convictions. He also displayed a tolerance for needle-exchange programs; medical-marijuana laws; and Seattle’s annual Hempfest. Kerlikowske, appointed Seattle chief in 2000 by then-Mayor Paul Schell, had served for two years as deputy director of the Justice Department’s community-oriented policing office in the Clinton administration.