Richard Newton | LEAP | Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

About Richard Newton

Retired Drug Interdiction Aviation Pilot



"Prohibition does not work and the money we have spent as a nation could be used for so many other things that this country needs."

Richard Newton
Richard Newton understands how futile it is to chase down drug dealers. He spent 32 years of federal service doing just that, and yet drugs are cheaper and more plentiful than they were 40 years ago.

In the US Marines, Richard piloted helicopters and operated from amphibious aircraft carriers. He went on to fight the drug war for Customs and Border Protection after he left the Marines with the rank of major. "I thought drug interdiction would be a good thing for the country," he recalls of his career decision, "and I thought it would be a great job, which it was. However, I don't think I really believed interdiction and prohibition worked, even then."

Richard was a skilled, much sought-after pilot and is most proud of the fact that in 30 years of flying both helicopters and fixed wing aircraft in fairly hazardous environments and on high risk missions, he has never had an accident. He was sent to work in locations with the highest number of aviation drug busts-in Florida during the Miami Vice fueled heydays of the war on drugs, when cocaine was literally falling out of the sky, and in Puerto Rico at a time when that aviation branch was responsible for 75%-80% of the total drug seizures of the Customs aviation program. "We interdicted loads of cocaine being smuggled into the US by both boat and aircraft," he says. "My largest interdiction was 1000 kilos of coke, but the street price of coke didn't increase as a result of that seizure. It got me wondering, how useful was what I was doing?"

"During my tenure with Customs and Border Protection, I flew single engine helicopters along the border, often at 25-50 feet above the ground without lights, while wearing night vision goggles. If the engine would have hiccupped, I would have been dead."

"After one of my best friends was killed in May of 2007 in a helicopter accident, I figured it was not worth risking my life to support a failed public policy of prohibition."

Richard believes that the use of drugs is a complicated subject, one that can't be solved with law enforcement but must instead be approached by social and medical services. "History shows prohibition has not worked," he says, "not only during the 1920's and 1930's, but also over the course of the last 40 years."

A Request from Calderón would end the drug war El Diario de El Paso, December 3, 2009

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