Director of Drug Control Policy: Who is R. Gil Kerlikowske?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

President Obama’s apparent nominee to be the nation’s new “drug czar,” Robert Gil Kerlikowske, has spent nearly 30 years in law enforcement, including a stint as a narcotics officer and eight years as Seattle’s police chief, during which he downplayed the importance of arresting individuals for marijuana possession.

Born in Fort Myers, Florida, in 1949, Kerlikowske was raised by his mother and stepfather, who was a judge. As a high school student, Kerlikowske worked as a crime scene photographer on weekends, and he discovered his love for law enforcement while fingerprinting criminals at a Florida jail. Kerlikowske enrolled in St. Petersburg Junior College, but was drafted into the army in 1970, and joined the Army Military Police. He was stationed in Washington, DC, where his duties included saluting then-President Richard Nixon as he boarded the Marine One helicopter.
Kerlikowske married in 1972, and he and his first wife, Carol, had two children. After leaving the military, Kerlikowske began his law enforcement career in 1972 as a street cop for the St. Petersburg Police in Florida. His assignments included work as an undercover narcotics detective, an internal affairs investigator and a police hostage negotiator. By 1985 he had been promoted to head of the department’s criminal investigation division.
In his off hours, Kerlikowske attended college at the University of South Florida, where he earned a bachelor’s degree (1978) and a master’s degree (1985) in criminal justice. He later graduated from the National Executive Institute at the Federal Bureau of Investigation Academy in Quantico, Virginia, in 1984.
He was hired to be the police chief for the town of Port St. Lucie in Florida in March 1987. He later held the same post for Fort Pierce beginning in January 1990, before moving in 1994 to Buffalo, New York, to become police commissioner.
Kerlikowske was the first department outsider to lead the Buffalo police department. He was credited for lowering the crime rate, improving police relations with the community and introducing basic technological advancements in the Buffalo police department, along with instituting random drug testing of officers.
He married his second wife, criminal justice researcher Anna Laszlo, in 1995.
In 1998, Kerlikowske relocated to Washington, DC, to join the US Department of Justice during the Clinton administration. There, he served as a deputy director for the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, where he oversaw community policing grants. During his time at the Justice Department, Kerlikowske established a strong relationship with Eric Holder, who served as deputy attorney general during the Clinton years, and is now US Attorney General.
Kerlikowske was selected to become Seattle’s police chief in 2001. During his tenure in Seattle, Kerlikowske won credit for stabilizing the department after the stormy departure of Norm Stamper as chief in the wake of the 1999 World Trade Organization riots in Seattle. Crimes rates dipped during his time as chief, reaching historic lows in recent years.
But his time as police chief was not without some controversy and drama. Kerlikowske faced criticism over the department’s slow response to the 2001 Seattle Mardi Gras Riots that left one man dead and 70 people with injuries. During the incident, he ordered the police at the scene not to intervene, instead maintaining a perimeter around the violence. The city of Seattle acknowledged that police strategy presented a public safety threat, and settled with the murder victim’s family for just under $2,000,000. The next month, The Seattle Police Officers’ Guild voted no confidence in the chief, citing both the Mardi Gras riot and his public reprimand of an officer for being rude to a group of young jaywalkers.
In 2003, Kerlikowske was asked about his views on a local ballot initiative to make marijuana possession the lowest law enforcement priority. In response, he stated that “arresting people for possessing marijuana for personal use... is not a priority now.”
In 2004, Kerlikowske admitted publicly that he had been recruited to leave Seattle to run police departments in San Francisco and Boston. In September 2004, he allowed himself to be jolted with 50,000 volts of electricity to demonstrate the non-lethal efficiency of Taser guns. And in December, he left a 9-mm Glock semiautomatic handgun underneath the seat of his car while shopping with his wife. The gun was stolen out of his car, and a spokesman for Kerlikowske said the chief was “chagrined.”
In July 2007, a citizen oversight panel accused Kerlikowske of repeatedly interfering in an internal investigation into the actions of a pair of officers accused of beating a suspect.
Chief R. Gil Kerlikowske Biography (Seattle Police Dept)
Seattle police chief to become nation's drug czar (by Steve Miletich and Mike Carter, Seattle Times)


Cheryl Lanney 11 years ago
I am praying that R. Gil Kerlikowske looks towards helping, not punishing ALL accidental addicts. I live with horrible pain but have finally gotten off that horrible "ride" - vicious circle. I hope this gets to Mr.RG Keelilkowske... I just read on my local news that Mr Keelinowske will be addressing officials and Drs in Little Rock, AR. The article read that instead of pushing towards law enforcement, he will be speaking towards the issue of asking for funds to help with the addiction problems. This has always been the best thing for lowering abuse of prescription drugs; not law enforcement as an answer with punishment. That has NEVER worked so this possible change to HELP addicts is a great start. I speak from personal experience. I have lost many friends due to prescription drugs and I know how rampant it is and how the poor are letting their addictions lead thier lives; all but ignoring the important facets of their lives- line their children or simply carin about nothing else. There is very few programs, such as Drs and clinics providing help for addiction such as Suboxone. This saved my life-I am hoping. Hoping that I haven't done irreversible damage during the past 20 years taking hydro codine. I have to pay so much to see the dr once a month plus secondary council ing. $250/month is terrible when its the only way to get treatment. So I beg the officials who can help with changes to consider helping addicts. Most of them want out of the vicious cycle. The only way to help is to make it easier for them to get treatment. Treatment such as I have been fortunate enough to get. I have been recovering from 20 years of abuse for about 6 months. I need the full 2 years at least but doubt I will be able to keep paying for cost of treatment. Prescription addiction is so commonly accidental. I don't do street drugs but when addicted, the best of people will take some extreme measures. This deteriorates their lives by causing drug charges on their record and they have to get involved with the type of people they would NEVER have before. Please read between the lines if I have failed to get my point across here. Please help on this issue. Sincerely, Cheryl Lanney 1000 N 40 St Paragould, AR 72450
Jerry Malone 12 years ago
you need to listen to the people,your drug polices are out dated and wrong....please mister president change this man and get some one that isnt a cop first,i see that your not really wanting to hear what people got to say one is that you never had to take a man made drugs that really do the hurting of people,11 back surgies and a lot of oxycontin and what happen i became so addicted i couldnt even get off them till i started eating weed which by the way you talk nothing about..your policys and your ways are wrong and it helps me for pain and im 51 years old and i dont allways need it..please you need to listen to the people not to your old out dated ways..thank you jerry malone

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