Before scripting a new blog I habitually do a little bit of research, reading the considerations and opinions of others. I don’t do this to plagiarize positions, but someone may have a better understanding, more experience or a more educated point of view, which would give the blog piece a more rounded opinion. In this instance and on this topic I am just going to write. This is not a suggestion that I ‘know it all’, but I do possess a level of experience that few others do. Whilst some may not subscribe to my views, remember that’s all they are.
It was over 22 years ago I started working undercover as a ‘Test Purchase Officer’, and over the span of my 25 year career I have spent more than 6 years professing to be a drug addict, drug dealer, a hitman, an enforcer, a corrupt cop and amongst other things a paedophile. I’ve lived on the streets for short periods of time, and know what it feels like to be invisible. I’ve driven around in flash cars as a high level player, and know the ambiances that come with being revered for the same.
Whilst Gaoler at West End Central, a heroin addict who I’ll call ‘Louise’ was brought into custody. She worked the streets to fund her habit and had been arrested for solicitation by Drugs and Vice. She was terribly upset and without entering into an entirely different story arc I had dealt with her shortly before when I was a Detective Constable working Special Victims.
I knew she was saddened, so decided after she’d been placed in her cell I’d check on her almost immediately. I found her hanging, not breathing with vital signs absent. I commenced CPR and she came back to us, but much to the dismay of my colleagues I was covered in her blood, in my mouth and all. A visit to the Virology Unit at Kings College Hospital, two weeks on the AIDS cocktail (which is fun) and a quick blood test six months later and I was given the all clear.
However, whilst that pending blood test was still fresh on my mind I would encounter Louise again in the early hours of one Sunday morning on Falconberg Court in Soho. She was lying prone with a needle on the floor, next to her gaunt frame. Rigor mortis had already set in, nothing I could do this time around. Now this wasn’t her failure as many would suggest but my failure, the failure of the Police Service, Social Services, the Government and society in general.
I worked as Custody Sergeant in one of the busiest police divisions in the world. I spent night after night booking in addict after addict. Placing them on 15 minute checks fully aware of how deadly heroin withdrawal could be, and cognizant of the depression and lack of self-worth that came with the same. It was at this juncture in my policing career I realized the issue wasn’t one of low moral standard, or lack of willpower. Most of these addicts came from broken homes, or suffered mental health issues, or were minorities, or lived on the streets.
PC Dave Piling was one of the officers who’d constantly bring these people in. He was known as ‘Robocop’, but that name didn’t fit his persona. He was kind and compassionate, never judgemental and would regularly ask my permission for time to sit and talk in cell with the people he had detained. He would attempt to divert them to different paths, even though that wasn’t his job. Shockingly, some years later, he too would die of a drugs overdose in Police Accommodation.
So let’s begin with Prohibition itself. Time and again it’s been statistically proven that prohibition has no discernable effect on drug use. In fact, I would suggest the onset of the nationwide alcohol prohibition in the United States in the 1920’s had a direct causation effect of the development and prominence of Organized Crime Groups, including La Cosa Nostra’s hold over North America. These we’re groups of pocketed criminals who came together to ‘organize’ a better infrastructure to traffic alcohol across the Canadian/ American border and they still operate today although they’ve traded in alcohol for drugs.
Legalization of drugs would in turn lead to an eradication of that very criminal market place we actually created, and a massive reduction in all crime. A national survey in the UK in 1994, suggested that drug addicts were responsible for more than 50% of property crimes, totalling over $4 billion. The notable factor here is I had to go back 23 years to find a government report about the connection between addicts and property crime.
Legal drug use, with education would make our communities safer overall, not just from a crime aspect but also a public health aspect. HIV, Hep B and C are easily commuted by the sharing of needles. Also, if you remove the stigmatization that comes with being addicted to narcotics people would feel more comfortable coming forward and asking for help from friends, family or agencies that would be geared towards the same.
Marijuana has lugged with it a false negative narrative postulated through your Government by the pharmaceutical industry for years. Though it now has demonstrated medicinal benefits people still have problems with it use, somewhat because the stigmatization has been forced upon us for decades. Even now, with multiple deaths from Fentanyl use (over 700 Canadian’s died in 2015 alone) we see massive Police resources directed daily to the enforcement of a plant that’s probably been around a lot longer than we as a species have. I also note an uptick in police warrants when negative news about a police service breaks. Ottawa’s recent war on drugs came short days after one of their own was charged with manslaughter. A useful tool for distraction, perhaps?
On a more subjective and personal note I was issued a prescription for medicinal marijuana for PTSD. I’ll be honest, I was aghast at the mention of the same. Without going into too much detail it never once made me high and I can tell you it worked. Although I’m not currently using it if I ever find myself in a place where I need it again I wouldn’t hesitate to do so. We also need to acknowledge this is a drug found clinically to be less harmful than alcohol and tobacco and I have yet to see a single reported death linked to a marijuana overdose.
Finally, there has been a visible relationship between enforcement and colour. In the US, if you are black you are over ten times more likely to find yourself in prison for a drug offence that a white person for the same offence. Police Officers hold a certain power of discretion when it comes to drug possession offences. This does give those with stereotypical, even racist views the ability to target minority groups and I would respectfully suggest a small minority, not all, abuse this power.
I know legalization will come with its own problems and I’m not endorsing the vending of heroin at your local 7 Eleven, but government programs that supply and educate addicts with diversion programs rather than fines or removal of a person’s liberty would go a long way to improving society for everyone. Nobody wants to be an addict and for me, current legislation is no more than a way for administrations to vilify disadvantaged members of society. It also acts as cover, so they don’t have to deal with real socio-economic issues tied into illegal drug use. I’ll be the first to admit a large percentage of drug users do so for recreational reason alone, but I’d wager an even larger percentage do so for reasons tied directly to mental health ailments or despondency.
LEO’s are here to help those who cannot help themselves and of course we have to uphold the various Acts of Legislation that our politicians decide are apt and in the public interest. However, when it becomes apparent that same legislation does more harm than good it’s time to rethink the concept of a ‘war of drugs’. It’s time to acknowledge the war on drugs is nothing more than a war on depression. A war on mental health. A war on poverty. A war on skin pigmentation. And what is becoming blatantly obvious as days pass by and colossal pharmaceutical companies who use unlimited resources to continue to lobby governments worldwide, a war on medication.
With legalization would ‘Louise’ still be alive? I can’t say for sure, but I like to think so. I like to think she wouldn’t have been down an alleyway looking for money for drugs where she was gang raped. I like to think she never would’ve taken a bad hit down in Soho, because the drugs she took were manufactured by Government entities to pharmaceutical industrial standards. I like to think when things got too bad she was entered into a diversion program, a program that at the end of it assisted in finding housing and work. She then settled down with a nice guy and had the chance to have kids, normality, something we all take for granted.
And Dave? Ah brother! I like to think he should’ve had the ability to knock on my door, and just walk in, without fear of criminal charges or punitively losing his job and just say, “Fuck Sarge, I need help!”
Rest in peace guys!