Drink and Drugs News DDN 1804 | Page 6

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Strong arm of the


It used to be that senior police , like politicians , would only speak out on drug policy from the safety of retire - ment . These days , however , serving PCCs are taking an increasingly leading role in the call for change , as DDN reports

Afew short years ago most people would probably not have predicted that it would soon be the police who – as Release recently said – were ‘ leading the way in the debate for drug policy reform ’ ( DDN , March , page 5 ). But that ’ s exactly what seems to be happening .

The charity was responding to the latest call by a police and crime commissioner ( PCC ) to implement radical measures to cut drug-related death and crime rates – in this case West Midlands PCC David Jamieson and his plans for prescribed heroin , diverting people from the courts into treatment , and ‘ considering the benefits ’ of consumption rooms .
‘ Despite the good work being done by many , collectively our approach to drugs is failing ,’ said Jamieson , whose region sees half of all burglary , robberies and shoplifting committed by people with drug problems , at huge cost to the public purse . He intends to have as many of his plans as possible in place before he leaves office in 2020 , plans that also include training and equipping the police with naloxone and implementing safety-testing of drugs in the region ’ s night-time economy .
His call had the backing of the PCCs ’ membership body , the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners ( APPC ), and follows similar announcements from North Wales PCC Arfon Jones – whose annual report included plans for a consumption room pilot and to look at decriminalisation as most drug use ‘ is recreational and causes no harm ’ ( DDN , October 2017 , page 5 ) – and Derbyshire PCC Alan Charles . The first PCC to put his head above the parapet , however , was Durham ’ s Ron Hogg . It ’ s now over a year since Hogg announced that he ’ d asked local public health departments to look at options for introducing heroin-assisted treatment to allow people to ‘ stabilise their addiction in a controlled environment ’ ( DDN , March 2017 , page 4 ), although he ’ d been a vocal critic of government drug policy as far back as 2014 .
Initiatives such as consumption rooms , heroin-assisted treatment and drug
testing in nightclubs are no longer just backed by campaigning organisations like Release and Transform , but by august bodies such as the Royal Society for Public Health ( DDN , March , page 4 and July / August 2017 , page 4 ) who see them as part of a logical move towards a more evidence-based policy . But why is it that increasing numbers of PCCs are calling for radical reform ? The obvious answer is that it ’ s they and their officers who are witnessing the failure of current approaches on the frontline , so it ’ s little surprise that they might want to try something new .
This mood was very much in evidence at last month ’ s meeting of the Drugs , Alcohol and Justice Cross-Party Parliamentary Group , which heard from Hogg , Jamieson and Jones as well as Derbyshire PCC Hardyal Dhindsa – who also serves as the APPC ’ s alcohol and drugs lead – in a roundtable discussion on ‘ advancing an evidence-based approach to drug policy ’.
‘ It ’ s time for us all to show some leadership on this – it ’ s about us doing the right thing ,’ Hogg told the group . ‘ We cannot continue with prohibition , we ’ re just putting millions of pounds into the pockets of organised crime . It ’ s a crazy waste of money – policy has failed .’
In his 30 years as a drugs officer he ’ d seen only worsening problems , he said , and the background of constantly shrinking budgets meant that it was ever-more vital that money was spent as wisely as possible . While it was his call for heroin-assisted treatment that had unsurprisingly made the headlines , this was only ‘ one small aspect ’ of what needed to be done , he said – and one that would also help to cut out a ‘ pot of money ’ going to organised crime . ‘ We must not criminalise addicts , but those who deal ,’ he told the meeting . ‘ We need to treat drug users in a different way to how we do at the moment .’
His Towards a safer drug policy document from July last year advocates a fundamental review of the Misuse of Drugs Act , and of UK drug policy in general . The Act ’ s effectiveness has never been formally evaluated , it argues , ‘ despite
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