HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Officer Lauded For Idea To Decriminalize Addicts
Pubdate: Monday, 27 Apr 1998
Source: The Vancouver Sun
Author: John Turvey


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

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?