Norm Stamper was a police officer for 34 years, the first 28 in San Diego, the last six (1994-2000) as Seattle’s Chief of Police. He earned his Ph.D. in Leadership and Human Behavior, and is the author of two books: To Protect and Serve: How to Fix America’s Police (2016) and Breaking Rank: A Top Cop’s Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing (2005). He recently finished a novel and is at work on another.
Throughout his career and into “retirement,” Norm has served as a trainer, consultant, expert witness, and keynote speaker. His commitment to police reform and social justice has shaped an agenda that calls for an end to the drug war; abolition of the death penalty; vanquishment of domestic violence from our society; a concerted effort to drive bigotry and brutality out of the criminal justice system; development of broad respect and support for the nation’s police officers; a campaign to make every school, every workplace, every neighborhood and home a place of safety, particularly for our children; rejection of mass incarceration; and a fully-fledged dedication to our civil liberties and constitutional guarantees.
Norm lives in the San Juan Islands off Washington State, and is a proud and humble father, father-in-law, grandfather, uncle, brother, and friend. An incurable film freak, he lives in a cabin on a mountain with no television hookup (but a strong wi-fi signal which, at last, allows unbuffered streaming of movies). Norm’s love of literature and film no doubt influenced his co-author (pictured on the homepage of this site) when, at 12 weeks of age, the boy was asked to name himself. Waiting a full three days, the suspense building, the longhaired miniature dachshund, now in his mid-teens, finally gazed up from the kitchen floor and announced, Günter Herzog Fassbinder. He goes by the nickname “Gunther.”
“Justice is like a train that is nearly always late.”
This quote by the Russian poet and filmmaker evokes memories of the vast numbers of long-dead citizens denied simple justice in their lifetimes.
The train arrived too late, for example, for millions of African Americans who for centuries were legally victimized by slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and economic and physical cruelty.
Resistance to basic legal reforms guarantees that many millions of Americans will go to their graves as victims of sanctioned injustice. The train is not even in sight for the half million non-violent drug offenders (disproportionately poor and of color) languishing in our prisons, the result of a fatally flawed belief that prohibition works, or can somehow be made to work. Research and the experience of many other nations demonstrate how the regulated legalization of all drugs would make our neighborhoods, and our citizens, safer and healthier.
The U.S., with less than five percent of the world’s population, is home to 25 percent of its prisoners, a whopping 2.3 million people. Some offenders belong in prison, many do not. We pay dearly for a vindictive system that often serves to make matters so much worse.
In only 17 states (plus the District of Columbia) is the barbaric, fruitless practice of human execution outlawed. The “Innocence Projects” around the country have freed over 200 wrongly convicted persons, many after having served 10 or 20 or more years in prison, some on death row. No one knows how many innocent people have been put to death in this country. The memory of even one should sear the conscience of the American people, and force our lawmakers to end the death penalty.
Guns in the hands of people who should never touch a firearm ensure unsafe streets, homes, campuses, and workplaces across the land, with the continuing threat of the slaughter of innocent children.
Violence in the home denies basic security and emotional well being for millions of people, most of them women, many of them children. Being brutalized, terrorized, forced to live in fear of a “loved one” is an abject form of injustice.