Pubdate: Fri, 16 May 2003
Source: Whitehorse Star (CN YK)
Copyright: 2003 Whitehorse Star
Author: Sarah Elizabeth Brown


This is the last in a four-part series looking at various aspects of police 
work to mark national police week.

Pete Greenlaw flaps his fingers, pantomiming a pair of lips talking -- 
"Drugs are bad. Don't do drugs."

"This doesn't work," the RCMP corporal said.

When the RCMP first hired drug awareness officers as their part in 
implementing Canada's drug strategy in 1988, those police officers were 
often labelled the "pin and poster guys."

They handed out pins and posters and stood at the front of the classroom 
telling kids to stay away from drugs, Greenlaw said. There wasn't a lot of 
interaction, and students didn't take a hands-on role in the learning process.

Things have changed, said Greenlaw, who spent nearly his entire RCMP career 
busting dealers before moving over to the prevention side of drug enforcement.

"Kids -- they're not going to listen to me," he said. "I'm an authority. 
You have to reach them some other way."

The Yukon RCMP's drug awareness officer returned from Vancouver yesterday 
with the Wood Street School students who had performed their theatrical 
production about drunk driving.

The youth researched the topic and wrote the play themselves.

"That's the difference between 1988 and 2003," he said. "It's a significant 
change in that I'm not at the front of the class talking."

Part of that 15-year evolution was the realization the nationwide drug 
programs for students -- Two-Way Street, Drugs and Sport, Aboriginal 
Shield, all life-skills programming preceding the currently-in-vogue DARE 
- -- don't work the same for everyone.

Canada is a huge country with many different cultures, and what works for 
someone in rural Nova Scotia might not work for a student in Surrey, B.C., 
said Greenlaw.

"You have to do what the community wants instead of big brother from Ottawa 
saying this is what you should do," he said.

Working with people from Alcohol and Drug Services, Crime Prevention Yukon, 
youth groups, local schools and the Department of Education, the RCMP have 
instead helped put together drug education materials that are integrated 
into the curriculum, avoiding the "parachute" method of dropping generic, 
ready-packaged programs onto students.

For example, a biology teacher faced with a question about cocaine can go 
to her RCMP-provided information kit that is appropriate for her students' 
age, and have the answer in minutes.

Also in those kits are videos and interactive games that can be used to 
reinforce the problem-solving skills and the information the students learn.

If age-appropriate information and skills are built into the curriculum 
from kindergarten to Grade 12, the hope is some of it will stick.

"Hopefully some of it will take and they will be able to make a positive 
choice or at least an informed choice," said Greenlaw.

"Because kids are going to experiment, they are going to try things. But if 
they know what they are getting into, hopefully it won't go beyond the 

Even now, in 2003, those who direct the nation's drug and alcohol education 
are looking at a more drastic change -- aiming the messages at kids' 
parents instead of at kids themselves.

Currently, school drug education results aren't satisfactory, said 
Greenlaw, and the debate at the national level questions whether too much 
emphasis is placed on reaching youth and not enough on their parents.

The problem, the corporal said, is that many young people get one message 
at school, and another quite different one at home -- the "you can't drink, 
but would you get me a beer out of the fridge" attitude.

Some people don't think anything of "killing a 26er" on a Saturday 
afternoon, watching a hockey game with their children, he said.

"We have to get the adults to be adults," said Greenlaw. "If the adults 
would grow up ... that's the perfect role model for the kids." In his 
undercover days, he bought drugs from other cops, and he's been a part of 
investigations that slapped handcuffs on lawyers, doctors, sports stars, 
university professors and even a judge.

"Nobody is immune to this," said Greenlaw, referring to people who have to 
sell drugs to feed their own addictions. "It baffles me sometimes -- these 
people should know better."

Even when he did traditional drug work, it was obvious to Greenlaw that 
throwing people in jail wasn't going to stop drug use. The users still have 
the same problems when they get out of jail, he said, and these people need 
housing, skills and a job before they're going to quit for good.

Many parents just don't realize the impact their actions have on their 
kids, said Greenlaw, though he's fully aware of just how sensitive the 
topic of parenting can be.

In the Yukon, the first step towards taking the prevention messages was a 
booklet made last year for parents on raising drug-free kids.

Part of the Yukon school curriculum aimed at teaching young people to make 
good choices is an interactive "game of life" called Second Step that hands 
youth situations involving drugs, booze and teen pregnancy, among others. 
He has had parents and community groups ask to go through the game once 
their kids came home talking about it, said Greenlaw.

While health problems in 1995 sidelined him to driving a desk instead of an 
unmarked drug squad car, it hasn't changed how busy he is.

While half of Greenlaw's time is currently spent with young people, more 
and more of his job involves giving workshops to businesses about drugs in 
the workplace. He trains the RCMP officers who regularly go into 
classrooms. Greenlaw also sits on a half-dozen national committees, sending 
him Outside regularly for conferences.

It's a long ways from his early days as a long-haired undercover drug cop 
in Toronto, where he started after he graduated from the RCMP's Regina 
training academy in 1975.

For five of his 10 years working all over southern Ontario out of Toronto, 
Greenlaw had a second set of credit cards, identification, even a separate 
car. Faced with the choices of promotion within the drug unit -- with more 
night work for him and more phone calls from informants for his wife -- or 
go north for something different, they came north.

Wearing a uniform and driving a marked patrol car -- and having the time to 
drive people home from the bars -- for four years in Dawson City was a shocker.

"I'd been trained for 10 years to blend in and now I'm sticking out like a 
flag," he said.

But even while he was in Dawson, he was involved in a couple undercover 
operations. In 1990, he shipped south 500 kilometres to spend another five 
years on the Whitehorse drug squad before being set back by a serious illness.

And when he came back in 1996, he gravitated back towards the drug field 
and landed in the drug awareness coordinator chair. Still, Greenlaw has to 
think hard about why he's stuck with drug work.

"Must be some foolish thing in me that thinks I might be making a 
difference at some level," he said.

According to Health Canada, if every year he can keep one kid away from 
drugs and out of the criminal justice system until he's 18, Greenlaw has 
paid for his salary, office and vehicle.

Back when he started, kids smoked pot, people with money snorted cocaine, 
addicts did speed and the drug purity was generally low.

Now, drug purity is much higher and kids still smoke pot, but they're also 
into cocaine -- crack preferably. They're also moving into methamphetamine, 
"which is just about as hard a drug as you're going to get."

Smoke crack and you'll be high for a half-hour. Smoke the same amount of 
meth and you're gone for 20 hours. And the risks of overdose or serious 
mental damage skyrocket.

"This, you and I can build in the washroom sink," said Greenlaw, holding a 
bag of crystal meth -- smokable speed -- seized in Whitehorse.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens