(Courtesy Office of National Drug Control Policy)

As America’s top drug cop, Gil Kerlikowske has a tough-guy image to maintain. He’s been chief of police in Seattle and police commissioner in Buffalo, and he now oversees the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which is tasked with stamping out illegal drug use and trafficking.

But it sounds like Kerlikowske, a Florida native named drug czar in 2009, has a secret softer side. He chats with the Loop about his love of musical theater (including a time he actually took to the stage himself) and his affection for Barney Miller.

Which cabinet secretary would you most like to hang out with, and what would you do?

Janet Napolitano — I’d take some tennis lessons from her.

What’s your favorite non-work-related Web site/app/magazine?

National Geographic.

Fill in the blank: People would be surprised to know that I _________.

Was in “Singin’ in the Rain” at the Fifth Avenue Theater in Seattle when I was police chief.

What’s your dream job?

Guest host of “Wait, Wait...Don’t tell me!”

What motivated you to go into public service?

I was inspired by JFK.

Favorite TV show?

It’s old, but clearly the most realistic police show, “Barney Miller.”

Which character from that show do you most identify with?

Capt. Miller, who was busy dealing with bureaucracy and the personalities of his detectives.

What subject, other than your work, do you know the most about?

American musical theater.

What’s the best job you ever had?

Police officer, because you get direct satisfaction from helping someone.

Fill in the blank: I’m scared of _________________.

Nothing. It is a violation of the unwritten police code of conduct to admit to being afraid!

What’s one word you wish people would use to describe you?


You can draft one person in the private sector to come work for the federal government. Who would it be, and what would you have them do?

The actor Matthew Perry, who has been an incredible spokesperson about the dangers of prescription drugs.

Background Check is a Loop feature in which we grill various government types about their lives on and off the clock. Please send suggestions for future subjects to intheloop@washpost.com.