Clinton picks veteran police official to lead drug war

April 29, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton appointed Lee P. Brown, a veteran law enforcement official, as the administration's top drug official yesterday.

Mr. Brown, 55, who formerly led police forces in Atlanta, Houston and New York, would be the first police official to head the office that coordinates the government's drug-control policy.

The appointment of a law enforcement specialist to carry out Mr. Clinton's promised emphasis on treatment and prevention received mixed reviews from many experts who consider the heavy reliance on law enforcement in the Reagan and Bush years to have been a failure.

Mr. Clinton, who plans to elevate the office to Cabinet-level status even while drastically trimming its staff, told a Rose Garden ceremony: "We have to do a better job of preventing drug use and treating those who seek treatment. And we must do more to protect law-abiding citizens from those who victimize them in the pursuit of drugs or profits from drugs."

During last year's presidential campaign, Mr. Clinton said he favored treatment on demand, a costly process that now reaches a small fraction of heavy drug users. He also said he knew firsthand the suffering that drug addiction can bring. He mentioned the case of his half-brother, Roger, a recovering addict who served a prison term on charges of conspiring to distribute cocaine.

Mr. Brown, standing beside the president, said his police work had taught him "firsthand the problems caused by illegal drugs in America.

Still, some said that Mr. Brown, if confirmed by the Senate as expected, could face obstacles in raising drug abuse to a top-level issue because of Mr. Clinton's plan to cut the office's staff from 146 to 25 employees and because of a perception that Mr. Clinton views drug policy as a second-level issue.

Despite the staff cuts, Mr. Clinton's drug-control budget is $13 billion, about the same as that of the Bush administration.

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