Former Patrol Officer, Mason City (IA) Police Department and West Des Moines (IA ) Police Department Former Detention Deputy, Olmsted County (MN) Sheriff's Office
Mason City, IA
"If the goal is to reduce social and public harms, then it makes no sense to punish people by hindering their ability to obtain employment or an education.”"
William (Will) Ostoj is a former patrol officer of two police departments in Iowa and a former detention deputy officer of the Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota. Known as an officer with great luck at finding “dope”, Will was skilled at making traffic stops and obtaining consent to search vehicles.
Will tells the story of a raid he once participated in during which no drugs were found. “We executed the search warrant, ordering the family to the ground at gunpoint and forcing them to watch, handcuffed, as we systematically tore apart their house and belongings. As we made entry, a fire extinguisher was used to scare off their two dogs, one of which defecated on the homeowners' bed out of fear. No drugs were found, and yet their home was destroyed, their reputation with their neighbors was likely permanently damaged, and they had endured the psychological trauma of having their home raided.”
“I am ashamed to admit that, at the time, I found that type of raid to be exciting,” Will says of his gradual and dramatic change of beliefs. “Over time, a process of information-gathering and critical thinking led me to realize I was misinformed. With public support for the legalization of cannabis increasing, I began to explore alternative positions and found that my profile of the typical drug user was based on propaganda. Prohibition has caused far greater societal harm than it prevents. If the goal is to reduce social and public harms, then it makes no sense to punish people by hindering their ability to obtain employment or an education. It’s especially nonsensical for drug addicts who need professional assistance to end their dependencies.”
He now calls for a shift to legalization and regulation in order to stop the creation and funding of criminal enterprise. “Our current prohibition laws establish and maintain a black market owned by gangs and cartels whose members often have no qualms about murdering law enforcement officers in order to stay out of jail,” he says.
Will, who served four years in the United States Marine Corps, is currently completing his undergraduate degree in biochemistry, cell and molecular biology with plans to pursue a medical degree