Interview with a police officer, part 1

Interview with a police officer, part 1

By M.L. Simon

I have been discussing the ramifications of the war on drugs (WOD) with a Canadian police officer, John A. Gayder. He has started a group called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). Its most prominent American member is Sheriff Bill Masters of San Miguel County, Colo., who has been an elected Libertarian Sheriff since 1980.

M.L.: John, tell me a little about your police career.

John: I am a currently serving constable with the Niagara Parks Police Service in Niagara Falls, Canada. Having said that, I need to tell you right off that the opinions I express regarding drug policy reform are strictly my own! They may or may not reflect the official position of my employer.

The policing profession has always been a central part of my life. My late father was a career police officer who rose through the ranks to eventually become a chief of police. My sister was a police matron for a time. I grew up in a policing household. I was hired in June of 1989 and have almost exclusively worked uniform patrol, which I consider to be the best job in the whole field of policing. I am also a certified health and safety worker representative and am the services rope rescue team instructor and coordinator. A partial c.v. is viewable on the Web. []

M.L.: What is your opinion on the war on drugs? What made you come to that conclusion?

John: The war on drugs is classic proof that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It is a noble idea to not want people to ruin their lives through drug abuse. Unfortunately, the way society continues to go about achieving that aim via the WOD is not working. In fact, it is making things worse. Almost everything we hate about drugs is a result of them being illegal.

I came to this conclusion via a lot of different evidence. I had seen people take drugs in public and high school and they didn’t go nuts and start killing or raping folks. When I was about 8 years old, a very close family member of mine was arrested for international trafficking in narcotics. Naturally, his actions were very unpopular within the family. It was a bad time—lots of anguish and embarrassment. Yet to me, he was still someone who I loved unconditionally. I couldn’t understand why he was in trouble for buying the oil of a plant. He hadn’t hurt anybody or stole something. I had another relative who became addicted to FDA-approved, doctor-prescribed happy pills that ruined her life—yet, the doctor worked out a full career and then retired to Miami. After I became a police officer, I saw more firsthand examples that confirmed the laws weren’t working.

M.L.: What do you think about drugs being used as self-medication?

John: This speaks to the heart of the very important question, why do people take drugs? The situation of people in chronic physical pain through injury or disease using drugs to relieve it speaks for itself and is a no-brainer. We desperately need to stop interfering with these people. We are not helping them by arresting them.

The deeper question involves recreational drug use by seemingly otherwise healthy individuals. I’m no scientist, but I believe many people use drugs and alcohol to alleviate a whole host of what are widely referred to as anxiety problems. Whether the severity of these anxieties warrants drug use versus cognitive therapy, or, better yet, prevention, is a valid question. Another thing I wish I knew more about was whether or not these anxieties are part of a self-perpetuating cycle caused by drug addiction itself, or whether people are masking over a mental trauma or pathology. It may be a chicken or the egg scenario. I guess looking at it on a case-by-case basis would be the best approach, but our current response involves helping all the case subjects by arresting and then fining or imprisoning them. I wish there was more research in this area, although the point is kind of moot as far I am concerned and who is society to tell people what they can or can’t do to themselves, so long as they don’t hurt others?

M.L.: If you could say anything to all the children who have broken families due to non-violent, drug-related law violating, what would you tell them?

John: Been there and done it. If it’s a case involving a hopeless addict who is unable to care for themselves and has sold everything in the house to buy drugs, I tell the kids that the person is ill. I tell them that their sickness has made them do crazy things. In some ways, that is the easiest situation to deal with.

The worse situation occurs when you are partnered with a gung-ho officer who insists on arresting a mom or dad in front of their children after he finds a small bit of marijuana or blow. What can you say to a kid then? It is beyond hollow to tell them that their folks aren’t really bad people, it’s just that they’ve broken the law. What does that tell a kid about their parents? What does it tell them about the law? It’s the police that are breaking the home up in that case. What a mess.

To be continued …

M. L. Simon is an industrial controls engineer for Space-Time Productions and a Free Market Green (c) M. Simon – All rights reserved. Permission granted for one time use in a single periodical publication. Permission also granted for concurrent publication on the periodical’s Web site.

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