Gloucester, Mass. – Police Chief Leonard Campanello took a bold stance when earlier this month he announced that his department would no longer arrest addicts that came the police station to turn in drugs or drug paraphernalia if they were seeking help.
In a not so surprising move, the Essex District Attorney, in a letter to Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello, warned that he may “lack the legal authority” to make promises of not charging heroin addicts criminally.
Rather than putting more people into the already overburdened criminal justice system, Campanello said that his department would connect those seeking help with volunteers that would assist them in getting into a detox or treatment program.
This past Wednesday, in a letter to Campanello, Essex District Attorney Jonathon Blodgett informed the police chief that he is not able to legally accommodate his promise.
“While we applaud the general idea of your proposal, an explicit promise not to charge a person who unlawfully possesses drugs may not amount to a charging promise that you lack legal authority to make, and on which a drug offender may not be able to rely,” Blodgett wrote.
Blodgett applauds the efforts of Campanello, but makes note that it is his duty to inform the police chief regarding the limitations that police and prosecutors face.
On the surface, this may sound legitimate. But if we dig deeper, we come to realize that there are many laws still on the books that are simply no longer enforced.
Using Blodgett’s logic all laws on the books must be enforced by police, which if true would lead to some interesting situations.
According to Legal Zoom:
If you stop for a beer in North Dakota, don’t expect to get any pretzels with your beverage, as it’s against the law in that state to serve beer and pretzels at the same time. …
Even in fashion forward New York City, there are laws concerning how a woman dresses. In the Big Apple, wearing clingy or body-hugging clothing carries a $25 dollar fine.
Although these laws are outdated and seemingly arcane, they are still on the books as laws. While these and many others laws now seem ridiculous and highlight the absurdity of state, public values once dictated that they be enforced by police.
As culture changed over time, legislation wasn’t passed to repeal these laws, police simply stopped enforcing them as society no longer found them of value.
Although the DA states that the chief cannot make good on his promise, he is mistaken, as an administrative directive by the police chief to his department should suffice as departmental policy.
The just following orders routine, however, will no longer suffice as an excuse for actions that are immoral. Police Chief Campanello needs to be commended for putting the spirit of law ahead of the letter of the law.
Please spread the word that the powers that be are trying to stop this courageous plan to help addicts before it even begins.
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Jay Syrmopoulos is an investigative journalist, freethinker, researcher, and ardent opponent of authoritarianism. He is currently a graduate student at University of Denver pursuing a masters in Global Affairs. Jay’s work has previously been published on BenSwann.com and WeAreChange.org. You can follow him on Twitter @sirmetropolis, on Facebook at Sir Metropolis and now on tsu.