Police chief implements new policy to give drug addicts treatment instead of prison time.
A small town in Massachusetts is taking an enormous step toward the peaceful resolution of the failed Drug War. Police Chief Leonard Campanello of Gloucester announced this week that starting June 1 of this year,
Any addict who walks into the police station with the remainder of their drug equipment (needles, etc) or drugs and asks for help will NOT be charged. Instead we will walk them through the system toward detox and recovery.
He said those who come to the department would be assigned an “angel” on the spot to help them through the process. The department will then refer them to a local clinic.
The statement, made in a Facebook post, has received widespread praise for its new approach to drug addiction. Campanello, a former narcotics, officer, also stated that:
I have arrested or charged many addicts and dealers. I’ve never arrested a tobacco addict, nor have I ever seen one turned down for help when they develop lung cancer, whether or not they have insurance. The reasons for the difference in care between a tobacco addict and an opiate addict is stigma and money. Petty reasons to lose a life.
Campanello did not mention the many lives lost due to officers who use excessive force against those found with drugs. However, it goes without saying that by reducing criminal charges, the new policy may help reduce this type of violence as well.
Campanello will travel to Washington D.C. on May 12-13 to meet with Senators Elizabeth Warren, Ed Markey and Congressman Seth Moulton to discuss his new strategy. He hopes to gain federal support and aid for this new approach to treating drug addiction.
I will bring the idea of how far Gloucester is willing to go to fight this disease and will ask them to hold federal agencies, insurance companies and big business accountable for building a support system that can eradicate opiate addiction and provide long term, sustainable support to reduce recidivism.
Among other things, he will ask the federal government that police be allowed to keep more money seized from drug dealers in order to fund treatment for addicts. While many disagree with the notion of officers holding confiscated funds, this still represents a better use of money than personal enrichment at the hands of innocent citizens, also known as civil asset forfeiture.
As he told local news station, WCVB:
We wanted the police department to be one of the safe havens that you can walk in when you are ready…and we don’t want to waste that moment when the addict is ready. We made a conscious decision here in Gloucester that we’re done with an addict being criminally charged for the offense of addiction. We’re going to take that extra step and make sure they get the treatment they need.
In 2011, almost half of all prisoners in America were there for drug-related offenses, demonstrating the excessive, ineffective criminal punishment that Campanello wants to reduce. He acknowledged further that police are unable to stop the supply of opiates and as such, would rather work to reduce its demand. (It should still be noted that legal opiates kill far more people than illegal ones).
The policy does not appear to apply to individuals found in possession of drugs on the street, but Anti-Media has contacted Mr. Campanello to clarify and will update this article if and when he responds. Even if it does not apply, the program should be praised and promoted for its willingness to help addicts when they make the conscious choice to make a change. It represents a productive step in forming new attitudes toward addiction and the Drug War.
As one former heroin addict in Gloucester, Christian Mackey, told WCVB,
There’s a chance that this can save one life, can save one family—and that’s all that matters.
Though the new policy only applies to one small town, its positive reception is a powerful sign that if it is successful, it may inspire change in the way police deal with drug addiction across the country.