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Pubdate: Monday, 27 Apr 1998 Source: The Vancouver Sun Contact: http://www.vancouversun.com/ Author: John Turvey OFFICER LAUDED FOR IDEA TO DECRIMINALIZE ADDICTS Some other Downtown Eastside Activities Society Staff and I had the opportunity to attend the Fraser Institute forum, "Sensible Solutions to the Urban Drug Problem," on April 21. I never thought I'd be in the position of congratulating the Fraser Institute, but I was delighted at the scope of this gathering. There clearly had been some quality planning expended in the development of the day's content. The community needs this kind of leadership on this issue. I was quite distressed to read that Vancouver Police Chief Bruce Chambers tried to censor and censure one of the day's foremost presenters, Constable Gil Puder. Does Chief Chambers review articles written by other police personnel for local newspapers before publication? Or does he only censor Constable Puder? If he takes issue with Constable Puder's comments regarding the "warrior-saviour" attitudes of drug enforcement officers, one would assume this would bring forth some scrutiny, given that Constable Puder is a 16-year veteran and a respected instructor at the B.C. Police Academy and the Justice Institute. It seems as if the historical cowboy mentality of drug policing is starting to shift. Is arresting street-level addicts where the community policing priorities lie? It is common knowledge that only five to 15 per cent of illegal drugs are intercepted by authorities. Is there a better "bang for buck" use of limited police resources? Why do we tolerate the derogatory attitudes displayed by police, and others, towards addicted individuals? This often does little more than fuel their isolation and low self-esteem, thus furthering their journey into addiction. Another byproduct of these attitudes by police is that by belittling addicts, we set them up to be victims. Predators know that addicts will seldom go to the police for assistance and when they do they frequently receive poor treatment. The law is there to protect all of us equally. This selective form of law enforcement further entrenches addicted persons into the criminal subculture. Brute force often defines the correct reality. At the forum, one thing became evident. In every city or country where innovations were taking place regarding substance abuse, most of these initiatives involved law enforcement. Harm reduction ultimately includes the whole community with no sub-groups left out. Switzerland is now involved in a major heroin drug substitution initiative which translates into lives and money saved. Is it not time to become rational instead of reactive?