“GUERNSEY, Wyo. — It was a few days before New Year’s Eve 2019, and Terri VanDam, the chief of Guernsey, Wyo.’s three-person Police Department, had run out of options.
For more than a year, Ms. VanDam and her sergeant, Misty Clevenger, had tried and failed to get to the bottom of the drug and alcohol problem in Guernsey, population 1,124. Methamphetamine use was rampant, and much of it was bought and sold right at the bars, they were told, but when anyone tried to investigate, they ran into a wall of silence that went right up to City Hall.
Not long after she had first started asking questions, she said, she had found a dead bird on her front porch, with a nail driven through it. Now, as chief, she had opened a full-scale investigation, and two townspeople warned that they had overheard the mayor talk about crippling the Police Department.
Not knowing where else to turn, Ms. VanDam reached out to the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, asking for a team of state investigators to come into Guernsey and help turn her suspicions into a case.
“It is becoming a huge issue and is out of control,” she wrote.
Far from bringing in a posse, the emails would prove to be the new police chief’s undoing. Two weeks later, Ms. VanDam was fired, and then Ms. Clevenger. In federal lawsuits, the women contend they were ousted because they tried to confront an insular, small-town network of powerful ranchers, business owners and politicians that was unaccustomed to questions. . . . “
David Lindsay: I sent a letter to the NYT. Letters@nyt.com:
This was an excellent piece of reporting, by Ali Watkins, How a Police Chief in Wyoming’s Ranchlands Lost Her War on Drugs, and a fascinating piece, which begs for discussion and comment. Is this a travesty of justice, or an example of the drug war going where it shouldn’t, because Americans like to buy and sell drugs? It begs for more reporting, and a serious discussion through comments. How many folks are getting hurt by this drug trafficking in this small town? Would this town’s community be improved if illegal drugs were decriminalized?
“Yet it’s not hopeless. America is polarized with ferocious arguments about social issues, but we should be able to agree on what doesn’t work: neglect and underinvestment in children. Here’s what does work.
Job training and retraining give people dignity as well as an economic lifeline. Such jobs programs are common in other countries.
For instance, autoworkers were laid off during the 2008-9 economic crisis both in Detroit and across the Canadian border in nearby Windsor, Ontario. As the scholar Victor Tan Chen has showed, the two countries responded differently. The United States focused on money, providing extended unemployment benefits. Canada emphasized job retraining, rapidly steering workers into new jobs in fields like health care, and Canadian workers also did not have to worry about losing health insurance.
Canada’s approach succeeded. The focus on job placement meant that Canadian workers were ushered more quickly back into workaday society and thus today seem less entangled in drugs and family breakdown.”
““E pluribus unum” — out of many, one — is one of America’s traditional mottos. And you might think it would be reflected in reality. We aren’t, after all, just united politically. We share a common language; the unrestricted movement of goods, services and people is guaranteed by the Constitution. Shouldn’t this lead to convergence in the way we live and think?
In fact, however, the past few decades have been marked by growing divergence among regions along several dimensions, all closely correlated. In particular, the political divide is also, increasingly, an economic divide. As The Times’s Tom Edsall put it in a recent article, “red and blue voters live in different economies.”
What Edsall didn’t point out is that red and blue voters don’t just live differently, they also die differently.”