policing

Doing What Works in Policing Drugs

former Chief Constable Tom Lloyd

A few years ago I wrote an open letter to Police across the country saying that we should change the way we tackle the harms caused by drugs and the criminal markets that supply them. To be clear, I am not in favour of people harming themselves by taking substances, whether illegally or not.

I do believe we can develop more effective ways to reduce harmful drug use, and the crime and violence associated with drug supply. We need to do what works, not simply what we’ve always done.

It was encouraging to see the announcement earlier this week that North Wales Police Force will not automatically prosecute low level possession offences, but offer users treatment and rehabilitation services. North Wales are joining a number of other Police Forces around the country showing leadership on the drugs issue by moving away from automatic criminalisation of users and taking an alternative, public health-based approach.

"It's a myth that we can arrest our way out of drug problems" - Mike Barton speech at CDPRG launch

Former Chief Constable Durham Police Mike Barton

I joined Lancashire police in 1980 and this month I retired as Chief Constable of Durham. Throughout those 39 years the drug laws have essentially remained unchanged.

In 2000 the Police Federation’s review of drugs and the law, supported by the Home Office, found no evidence that severe custodial penalties or their enforcement, however vigorous, was having any impact on supply. They said the law should be based on seven principles. I will deal with just the first three.

Firstly it should be used as a means of reducing demand and support the broader agenda of health, prevention and education. Well, since 2000 the police have advocated a health-based approach and yet it is still primarily seen as a criminal justice issue.