Mass. Police Department Says It Will No Longer Arrest Drug Addicts

A police department in Massachusetts says it’s changing its approach when it comes to drug addiction.  Instead of filling the jails, Chief Campanello of the Gloucester Police Department said in a Facebook post that he’s going to offer drug users an alternative.

Beginning June 1st, 2015, police in Gloucester, MA will not arrest opiate addicts who walk into the police station, turn over their drugs and paraphernalia, and ask for help.  The police department says they are poised to make revolutionary changes in the way they treat addiction. 

Any addict who walks into the police station with the remainder of their drug equipment (needles, etc) or drugs and asks for help will NOT be charged. Instead we will walk them through the system toward detox and recovery. We will assign them an “angel” who will be their guide through the process. Not in hours or days, but on the spot. Addison Gilbert and Lahey Clinic have committed to helping fast track people that walk into the police department so that they can be assessed quickly and the proper care can be administered quickly.

The police department is working with local pharmacies to provide nasal narcan (an opiate antidote) to addicts without insurance, for little or no cost .  They say they’ll pay for it with money they seize from drug dealers.

We will save lives with the money from the pockets of those who would take them. We recognize that nasal narcan is not the answer, but it is saving lives and no one in this City will be denied a life saving drug for this disease just because of a lack of insurance.

The Chief of Police says he’s taking his idea to Washington D.C.

There I will meet with Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey and Congressman Seth Moulton. I will bring what Gloucester is accomplishing and challenge them to change, at the federal level, how we receive aid, support and assistance. I will bring the idea of how far Gloucester is willing to go to fight this disease and will ask them to hold federal agencies, insurance companies and big business accountable for building a support system that can eradicate opiate addiction and provide long term, sustainable support to reduce recidivism.

He continues:

Lives are literally at stake. I have been on both sides of this issue, having spent 7 years as a plainclothes narcotics detective. I have arrested or charged many addicts and dealers. I’ve never arrested a tobacco addict, nor have I ever seen one turned down for help when they develop lung cancer, whether or not they have insurance. The reasons for the difference in care between a tobacco addict and an opiate addict is stigma and money. Petty reasons to lose a life.

This isn’t exactly a new idea, in 2000 Portugal decriminalized all drugs and shifted funding towards treatment.  10 years later, health experts said drug abuse dropped by half.

“There is no doubt that the phenomenon of addiction is in decline in Portugal,” said Joao Goulao, President of the Institute of Drugs and Drugs Addiction, a press conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the law.

The number of addicts considered “problematic” — those who repeatedly use “hard” drugs and intravenous users — had fallen by half since the early 1990s,”

Drug laws in America don’t only fail to stop drug abuse, they’re an assault on civil liberties and basic human rights.  The stigma created by years of law enforcement propaganda has led to heinous practices such as the infamous Stop & Frisk policy in New York and No Knock Raids that result in so many tragic stories we see of people being killed by the police in their own homes.

In 2013, out of 1,501,043 arrests for drug law violations in America, over 80% were for possession of a controlled substance (meaning they weren’t distributors).  Between 2001 and 2013, more than half of prisoners serving sentences of over a year in federal prisons were convicted of drug offenses.

People with criminal records face unprecedented employment challenges.  States have collectively adopted more than 30,000 laws that restrict access to employment and other basic rights, according to the Nation Employment Law Project.

There’s extensive data that drug laws are enforced disproportionately with racial disparities.

Drug laws are also responsible for disenfranchising approximately 1 of every 40 adults due to a current or previous felony conviction which flies in the face at the notion of democracy.

Like the war on terror, the war on drugs is framed as a response to an exceptional, existential threat to our health, our security, and indeed the very fabric of society. The ‘Addiction to narcotic drugs’ is portrayed as an ‘evil’ the international community has a moral duty to ‘combat’ because it is a ‘danger of incalculable gravity’ that warrants a series of (otherwise publicly unacceptable) extraordinary measures. This is not an exaggeration of the political rhetoric. This crusading language has created a political climate in which drug war policy and enforcement are not required to meet human rights norms.”
Campanello’s decision may or may not lead to national reforms but it will set a precedent and serve as a real life example of an alternative way to “serve and protect”.
Perhaps, other agencies should follow Campanello’s lead.  Arresting drug users doesn’t accomplish anything besides maintaining the largest prison population on earth, it’s past time to re-think criminalizing addiction.

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Dylan Donnelly

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  • JC

    They will still arrest drug users. They are offering drug addicts a chance to turn their lives around and get some of the drugs off the street. Unless an officer is a healthcare provider, he won’t be able to administer or give Narcan to anyone. A medical control officer has to sign a protocol and be available to the PD 24/7 Nice thought though.

  • t

    It’s interesting that the Chief put the info out this way…but it’s not really
    Any different than what lots of places have done for decades.
    We don’t typically
    Have anyone show up at the PD like he’s describing….but we do have buttloads show up at treatment facilities lie this…and we’ve never charged those seeking help.

    The problem isn’t the drug use. I couldn’t care any less if you main line heroin on the capital steps. The problem is all of the high social costs that go along with drug use.
    Heck….I recently read an article about how the tolerance of drug use in Washington state is being look at for stricter controls because of the high costs involved.

    Legalizing everything tomorrow won’t effect the crime rate one but other than possibly raising it.

  • DeadPigGoodPig

    the country of Portugal shows your statement is completely false. do some research you inbred fuck.

  • t

    I didn’t mention Portagul.

    And that’s an Apples to goldfish kind of comparison.

    Last week or the week prior there was a thread where the topic was guns. Someone brought up Germany and Austrila and some other countries about how little gun violence there is and how few police shootings there are.
    All of the counties mentioned have VERY strict gun control and most were socialist style governments that greatly restrict the freedoms of their citizens.
    Comparing those countries to the U.S. ….Apples to goldfish.
    Great Britian may be a better comparison. The at least tacit acceptance of drug use there and the HUGE social costs that they have chosen to bare.
    And even there you have DRAMATICALLY higher taxes and less gun violence…..because of less

    The question I guess is what are we as a society willing to accept.
    Are we willing to accept the high social costs of addiction and dSssease and crime….or are we not.

  • we’ve never charged those seeking help

    I see you keep a lying mouse in your pocket.

  • Thenumber6

    So what’s wrong with this, sorry we don’t want to arrest you, but we still want you to get help. We also don’t want to fill up jails, and use tax dollars to but a person behind bars that wants help.

  • RadicalDude

    You tell us.

  • t

    (Haha…kinda appropriate considering your comment…BM)

    So….lying huh?
    Where exactly?

  • massvocals

    well the program of not getting arrested may set well with police who are not nor ever should be in charge of curing drug war / money / ect.. that whole thinking is foolish this department is at least trying . however , keeping prohibtion interest turning your self in is not going to work never has .. never will , However here is the solution ” Ibogaine” there root cures in one doze it cures the body addiction and the mind addiction with a present buzz never the less all this , in one doze , so why don’t you offer this ? umm

  • keepitreal

    Yep, it’s everybody else that’s a liar, right? LOL. Multiple people on this site call you a liar, yet nobody seems to agree with you about those you call liars. Amazing, isn’t it.

  • t

    liar guy:
    Ah…the fool,pipes up.

    So the same to you…..where in that post Is there a lie?

    Come liar boy….where?

    Oh….BTW….this is where you get smoked again for being not only a liar…but an idiot. You’ll notice that even BM was smart enough to go,away….clearly you aren’t.


  • Common Sense

    Free will. I blame MTV. Either you pay for a replacement weedwacker when a heroin feind who steals it, pay taxes to house them, or pay for their medical treatment, or their pauper funeral.

  • TomKi

    Not even close.

  • Jes

    lmfao..Who walks into a cop shop and gives them their drugs and says ”i need help”?What a load.

  • mioman

    when i seen Elizabeth Warren name i couldnt help but laugh

  • Basically anywhere one sees your words written. If not direct lies, it is basic obfuscation and misdirection.

    Or am I writing to the mouse?

  • t

    Oh. Ok. You were just lying then. Alrighty

  • keepitreal

    LOLOLOLOL. You are such a fucking idiot. I wasn’t addressing the post, moron. I was addressing your predilection for calling everybody else a liar, when it’s you who lies. This particular post? All opinions on what this chief is doing, that’s all. But I can point to others. How about you?

  • t

    liar guy:
    So you weren’t “addressing the post” while making a comment under “the post”

  • Jonathan Mckeever

    I say all those options are better than paying for wars we don’t belong in or paying the salaries of repeat killer cops who are repeatedly being acquitted of murder.

  • Lori Romig

    People who really want and need help getting through drug addiction.