Tuscon, AZ — In the land of the free, when most police officers catch individuals with substances deemed illegal by the government, they will extort, kidnap, cage, or kill those individuals. This is the standard operating procedure for police departments from coast to coast. Despite applying this process of extortion, kidnapping, caging, and killing for over five decades — known as the war on drugs — addiction and drug use have gone up, not down. The good news is that some cops, not addicted to the violent war on drugs, are seeing that they cannot arrest or kill their way out of a drug problem. One department in Tuscon has saved nearly 1,000 people from the confines of cages related to their drug problems and the results are worth getting excited over.
About 18 months ago, the Tuscon police began a revolutionary shift in the way they treat people who they catch with drugs. Instead of kidnapping, caging, and killing them — they were given treatment options. The program started on July 1, 2018 and worked so well that it has been nationally recognized for its success, according Assistant Chief Kevin Hall.
“It’s a public health issue, not a criminal justice issue,” Hall said of the department’s new drug policy.
We wholeheartedly agree. If you arrest someone for drug possession it does nothing to prevent future use which ensures that they will be ensnared in the system later down the road, costing taxpayers dearly.
As KGUN 9 reports:
In total, 953 people were deflected from jail. Eight people were self-referred, meaning they showed up at a police facility looking for help. And 19 people sought out a police officer or CSO in the field for help.
TPD’s deflection program is one of six national learning sites designated by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, according to Hall. The designation allows other agencies from across the U.S. to visit Tucson to learn from TPD’s program.
This policy needs to be adopted immediately by every single department in the country before anyone else has their life ruined by cops arresting them for drug use.
As stated above, criminalizing addiction and substance abuse has done nothing to curb use. In fact, it’s gotten worse. America cannot arrest its way out of a drug problem. People are literally dying in the streets at an increasing rate and no amount of police state can stop it. Since the inception of the drug war, drug addiction and overdoses have gotten worse. Why is that?
To understand the answers to that question, we have to look at how the state has essentially created and facilitated the current opioid epidemic in which America currently finds itself.
For decades, the US government has waged a war on drugs while granting the monopoly on opioid production to the pharmaceutical industry. For years, people who would’ve never thought of trying heroin trusted their doctors who were being paid large sums of money to prescribe them dangerous and addictive opioids. In some cases, people were given fentanyl for a broken ankle.
As the crack down on opioids came to a head, all the ‘legal’ drug addicts were forced into the black market to continue supporting their addictions. Soccer moms, business professionals, and police officers alike quickly found themselves buying highly dangerous fentanyl and heroin on the black market to support their government-approved pharmaceutical industry-sustained addictions.
Instead of helping these people, who clearly have physical and mental addictions and need help, the government simply began locking them in cages when they caught them with it.
Research — according to many law enforcement officials — shows that the cost of incarceration, especially for repeat drug offenders, is far higher than simply treating their addiction. It is also far better for a society who values freedom.
The good news is that other law enforcement agencies across the country are realizing that treatment — not cages — curbs the problem of addiction far more successfully.
This realization has led to the creation of the Angel Program which is similar to the drug treatment program in Tuscon.
As the Boston Globe reports:
“As Gloucester police chief, Leonard Campanello pledged in 2015 that drug users could walk into the police station, hand over heroin, and walk out into treatment within hours — without arrest or charges. The concept of help rather than handcuffs became a national sensation.”
Campanello is no longer police chief there, but the program is continuing in Gloucester. The concept of helping addicts instead of criminalizing them is such a success, it’s been adopted by over 200 police agencies in 28 states.
Aside from the angel program, stopping the war on drugs is also having a heavy effect on reducing opioid overdoses—but it doesn’t go far enough fast enough. And that may be deliberate.
According to research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, as of January 2019, “everyday, more than 130 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids.” These overdoses can be attributed to prescription pain medications, which are prescribed like candy with little warning about how dangerously addictive they are; heroin, which many addicts turn to when they lose access to prescription opioids; and fentanyl, which has become increasingly popular despite its deadly track record.
Tuscon’s success and other department’s like them should serve as a wake up call to the rest of the drug warriors who think locking people in cages is the proper way to fix a health problem. When you can’t even prevent drugs from coming inside prisons, you are doing it wrong.