Klamath Falls, OR — In case you've been completely in the dark for the last decade, you've likely noticed that the United States is currently in the midst of an opioid crisis. This crisis knows no demographic, no race, no gender, no age limit, and no occupation—it hits them all. One example portrays this notion like no other and that is when cops get caught using opioids like fentanyl. Klamath Falls police detective, Thomas Dwayne Reif, 27, became the latest example after overdosing on fentanyl while on duty.
Last month, Reif was on duty and in his official police cruiser when he fell unconscious after overdosing and caused multiple vehicle in Klamath Falls. He had reportedly overdosed on the fentanyl which he is accused of stealing out of the evidence room.
State police, who are investigation the crash said that Reif "unlawfully obtained and used drug evidence from an unrelated case" before crashing his assigned police car. He has since been hit with a slew of charges including DUI, Reckless Driving, Recklessly Endangering Another Person, Official Misconduct 1st degree, Tampering with Evidence, and Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance (Schedule II controlled substance – fentanyl).
According to police, they received a 911 call of a person driving recklessly in a silver 2013 Dodge Avenger, which was Reif's assigned police vehicle. Before police could find Reif, however, he caused the multi-car crash.
"Just prior to the crash, Klamath County 911 received a call describing Reif as driving recklessly down South 6th Street," according to state police. "Reif was evaluated at the scene by Klamath County Fire District 1 personnel and found to be unresponsive and not breathing. He was transported to Sky Lake Medical Center where emergency department personnel were able to quickly stabilize him."
Though the crash and overdose happened on November 27, Reif was not charged with anything until this week after police concluded that he broke multiple department policies.
"On Tuesday, December 15, 2020, Mr. Reif turned himself in to the Klamath County Jail related to probable cause developed by Oregon State Police during the criminal investigation," a statement from the Klamath Falls PD reads.
The department said they are working with the Department of Safety Standards and Training (DPSST) in a professional standards case to determine if Reif can keep his certification as a police officer in Oregon, noting that this incident has "embarrassed" the department.
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"We are deeply embarrassed and disappointed with Mr. Reif’s misconduct. The Klamath Falls Police Department does not condone this type of behavior or misconduct by any law enforcement officer. We will continue to hold each other accountable to the highest ethical standards without exception."
Indeed, this incident is embarrassing but it is much more than that. It shows how the war on drugs is a complete failure as the ones enforcing it can't even prevent themselves from partaking in these arbitrary substances deemed illegal by the state.
Because Reif stole the fentanyl from police, after he stole it from someone else who is likely in jail, he deserves to be held accountable. Also, because Reif endangered the lives of all the people in the crash he caused, he deserves to be held accountable. And, because Reif engaged in a hypocritical act of betraying public trust by engaging in acts which he has arrested people for, he deserves to be held accountable.
Had he simply been caught with the substance, he should never be punished — no one should.
Criminalizing addiction and substance abuse has done nothing to curb use. People are literally dying in the streets at an increasing rate and no amount of police state can stop it. In fact, since the inception of the drug war, drug addiction and overdoses have gotten worse.
As this incident, and others like it illustrate, when authorities who enforce the drug war, engage in the very practice they ostensibly fight, it is time we try something else.
Last year, TFTP reported on a similar incident in which a cop — whose job consisted of locking people in cages for illegal substances — overdosed while on duty like Reif. Luckily for Franklin Township police officer Matthew D. Ellery, 29, he was found early enough to save his life and his police cruiser was not in motion.
Clearly, kidnapping and caging people for substances is making the problem worse. It is time to fix it.