President Obama’s nominee for drug czar, Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske, on Wednesday said his family has experienced firsthand the “human suffering” of drug abuse, but did not mention his adult stepson now being held without bail in a Florida jail.
Mr. Kerlikowske said the success of the nation’s drug control efforts are “largely dependent” on its ability to decrease demand, especially among young people, and thanked the Obama White House for promising to include local police in that effort.
“Our nation’s drug problem is one of human suffering. And as a police officer, but also in my own family, I have experienced the effects that drugs can have on our youth, our families and our communities,” Mr. Kerlikowske, a 36-year law enforcement veteran, said when accepting the nomination.
Mr. Kerlikowske’s 39-year-old stepson, Jeffrey, was arrested last month for a parole violation and faced misdemeanor marijuana-related drug charges in 2006 and 1998.
Under Mr. Kerlikowske’s leadership, Seattle police drug policy has focused more on treatment and intervention than on drug arrests, which have declined since he became chief in 2000.
Mr. Obama removed the czar post - with the official title head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy - from his Cabinet. Former President George W. Bush had elevated the post to the Cabinet level.
The White House said the Cabinet designation was not necessary since Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has worked on drug policy for decades and will advise the president, with the drug czar having access to them both.
Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper, a drug policy reform activist, said he was relieved Mr. Biden and Mr. Kerlikowske avoided the term “war on drugs,” which he described as “folly.”
In 2003, Mr. Kerlikowske opposed a voter initiative calling for the policing and prosecution of marijuana crimes to be ranked as the lowest priority for the department. It passed and, Mr. Stamper said, Mr. Kerlikowske was a “faithful interpreter of the law.”
Mr. Kerlikowske, 59, was named as Seattle’s police chief in 2000. He came from the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, working with then-Deputy Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., who is now attorney general.
Jeffrey Kerlikowske was arrested last month for violating probation from a July 2007 felony battery charge and the two drug-related charges on his record. The violation was for not properly reporting his work hours and for not being in his home at the proper time, a joint review of court records by the Florida Sun-Sentinel and The Washington Times found.
Before the nomination, administration officials would not comment on Jeffrey Kerlikowske’s arrest, first reported by the blog Web of Deception. Mr. Kerlikowske also declined comment.
Among the charges from Florida agencies were marijuana possession and distribution charges, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, theft, cruelty to animals and larceny, according to police officials and public records.
Jeffrey Kerlikowske, who appears to have been adopted as a child by Mr. Kerlikowske during a previous marriage, was arrested Feb. 27 for a violation on a warrant related to an original conviction of felony battery in Broward County, Fla., said a spokeswoman for the Martin County, Fla., sheriff’s office.
In June 2007, after pleading no contest to battery, he was sentenced to one year and one day in state prison, to be followed by two years of drug-offender probation and an additional year of regular probation.
The drug charges included possession of 20 grams or less of cannabis in 2006 and distributing marijuana in 1998, both misdemeanors in Florida.
• Researchers Clark Eberly and John Haydon contributed to this report.