In a recent Boston Globe column, a retired law enforcement officer who specialized in narcotics called for an end to the prohibition of heroin and other opiates. Jack Cole, a narcotics police officer with more than 26 years on the force and now chairman of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition said his 14-year experience as an undercover narcotics agent taught him that police had caused more harm than good for drug addicts.
“The damage came from people and cops doing what I did. Dragging buyers and sellers away from their families and slamming them into the criminal justice system, depriving both them and their neighborhoods of all hope,” Cole wrote in the column published last Sunday. “I witnessed people we disparagingly called ‘junkies’ dying with needles in their arms not because heroin is a poison but because the heroin was poisoned. I did more harm than good, and the harder my colleagues and I tried, the more damage we did."
Cole was adamant about how the “war on drugs” was a complete failure and had done more harm than good, stating that heroin overdoses had increased 900% since it's inception. It had done nothing to reduce supply and demand and in fact, made illegal drugs even more dangerous. “Heroin’s status as a Schedule I illegal drug has ceded its control and distribution to the most unscrupulous and unregulated players among us with the predictably tragic results,” Cole said.
Cole used an example of incompetence when he said the chief of police in Taunton, Massachusetts recently admitted the arrest of a top drug dealer had absolutely no impact on the black market price or abuse of heroin, which in his words “is precisely the opposite of what drug warriors promise,” and Cole said prohibition has caused “Al Capone-like street violence” in other cities.
“After nearly a half century of the US as the arrest capital of the world, the endless cycle in and out of our prisons shows little sign of slowing,” Cole said. Cole made it clear that the attitudes of society are starting to sway towards heroin and other opiates. People are becoming more understanding about addiction as more education is provided. The fact that it is having major impacts in suburban and rural areas is affecting people close to home. “We are seeing the birth of more non-judgmental approaches that include open dialogue about stigmatization and increased availability of health insurance to cover treatment program and these changes have borne fruit,” he said. “That has certainly been the case as more and more police officers carry and use the overdose reversal drug, Naloxone, saving countless lives.”
Cole may be on to something with his philosophy of drug addiction and the illegal sales of them. His approach, though unpopular, shares many interesting points and new ways of thinking to open the doors to new outcomes. It is obvious that the “war on drugs” has been a total failure but I am not sure that our country is ready to legalize these drugs.