Pubdate: Thu, 06 Nov 2008
Source: Andover Townsman (MA)
Copyright: 2008 Andover Publishing Co.
Author: Michael Kempster, MD, JD


Editor, Townsman:

On the Andover High School drug inspection: Fifteen canine units,
accompanied by police in riot gear walking through the school when
classes were in session with bolt cutters, searching students, lockers
and cars, represent a use of police power entirely out of proportion
to the problem, as the results of the raid document.

The students will be more predisposed to view the police as
adversaries, and drug users as victims of arbitrary police power
rather than people guilty of crimes and in need of help. The tension
between the view of addiction as a disease, or a symptom, warranting
empathy and treatment, and drug possession as a crime warranting
punishment is thereby pulled in the latter direction, one that to me
seems counterproductive in actually dealing with what drug problems we
have. Police functioning in an aggressive, invasive and paramilitary
manner are more alienated from the community they serve, will receive
less information from it, and will, in the end, be less, rather than
more, effective in doing their job.

The timing of the raid also raises the question of whether Question 2,
a ballot measure substituting civil fines for criminal penalties for
possession of small amounts of marijuana, entered into the decision.

That some felt this action necessary to quell unfounded rumors of
rampant drug abuse at Andover High School is terribly sad, and should
provoke serious soul searching, rather than uncritical acceptance of
the assertion that there was no other choice. I can think of no
greater tribute to the Andover High School teachers, and principal
Peter Anderson, than that students continue to respect and trust them
despite this action.

Michael Kempster, MD, JD
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