Cops Around the Country Quietly Begin Rebelling Against the Drug War

November 3, 2015   |   Carey Wedler

Carey Wedler
November 3, 2015

(ANTIMEDIA) It is a rare occurrence when police officers in America organize to undermine the very Drug War they vociferously fight for politicians. Police Chief Leonard Campanello of the Gloucester, Massachusetts Police Department, however, did just that earlier this year when he decided to treat — not arrest — heroin addicts who came to his department seeking help. His revolutionary “ANGEL” program has proven successful for addicts and their families in Gloucester, but it has also inspired other departments across the country to adopt similar programs amid growing officer fatigue over the ineffectual arrest and incarceration of addicts.

In May, Campanello announced via Facebook that his department would adopt the new policy of treatment over arrest (note: it does not apply to individuals caught in possession of drugs who do not turn themselves in). The move was met with widespread praise and the new policy was officially enacted in June. Treatment centers and pharmacies have partnered with the police department to ensure addicts receive the care they need.

As the police department’s website explains:

“If an addict comes into the Gloucester Police Department and asks for help, an officer will take them to the Addison Gilbert Hospital, where they will be paired with a volunteer ‘ANGEL’ who will help guide them through the process. We have partnered with more than a dozen additional treatment centers to ensure that our patients receive the care and treatment they deserve not in days or weeks, but immediately.

“If you have drugs or drug paraphernalia on you, we will dispose of it for you. You will not be arrested. You will not be charged with a crime. You will not be jailed.

“All you have to do is come to the police station and ask for help. We are here to do just that.

Five months since the program launched, Campanello reports positive results: over 260 addicts have been placed in treatment. This summer, shoplifting, breaking and entering, and larceny dropped 23% from the same period last year. “We are seeing real people get the lives back,” he said. “And if we see a reduction in crime and cost savings that is a great bonus.”

Other police officers are following suit. John Rosenthal is the co-founder of Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative, a nonprofit that helps police departments around the country adopt programs similar to Gloucester’s. Rosenthal says almost 40 departments in nine states (Connecticut, Ohio, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont) have adopted at least some aspects of the program, and 90 more departments want to get involved.

Though the specifics of the programs vary, they all aim to treat addicts. Police are even participating through Veterans Affairs, as opiate addiction is high among veterans.

The program, which Campanello has funded with money seized during drug arrests, has been well-received by departments that implement similar strategies. John Gill, a police officer in Scarborough, Maine, said his local police station saw a “profound” change. He credits Gloucester with the courage to go through with it: “It was the Gloucester ANGEL project which showed us that a relatively modest-sized police agency could have a real impact. And like Gloucester, we couldn’t afford to wait until the perfect solution came along.”

Opiate addiction has skyrocketed in the United States in recent years. In 2013, 517,000 were abusing heroin — a 150% increase from 2007 — and deaths due to heroin tripled in that same period of time. Addiction has spiked across multiple demographics, though 90% of first-time users are white. Fully 75% of new heroin addicts previously used prescription drugs, implicating the legal drug industry, as well. This epidemic has prompted action by various government entities: from the DEA’s crackdown on pharmaceutical over-prescription to President Obama’s recently announced plan to reduce addiction and improve access to treatment. Though the president commuted the sentences of 46 drug offenders over the summer, 48.4% of the prison population is incarcerated for narcotics offenses — proving the Drug War is still very much in effect.

So far, it appears the most expedient method to reduce drug arrests and improve treatment options comes from officers employing ANGEL-like policies on the ground.

We’re absolutely, unequivocally thrilled by the reception of this program by law enforcement,” said Rosenthal. “Police chiefs are recognizing we can’t arrest our way out of this, that this is a disease and not a crime and that people suffering from this disease need treatment, not jail.”


This article (Cops Around the Country Quietly Begin Rebelling Against the Drug War) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Carey Wedler and theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, email edits@theantimedia.org.

Author: Carey Wedler

Carey Wedler joined Anti-Media as an independent journalist in September of 2014. Her topics of interest include the police and warfare states, the Drug War, the relevance of history to current problems and solutions, and positive developments that drive humanity forward. She currently resides in Los Angeles, California, where she was born and raised.

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13 Comments

  1. It actually come out of the Justice Department ,and private nonprofit organization. We have been sending pamphlets and book to Police Department all over the country, trying to get them to start training programs to help mentally ill, drug and alcohol abuse

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  2. Just reading "Rise of the Warrior Cop" and this is the policy started by Nixon, increased by Reagan, and then largely let to grow under subsequent administrations. Nixon did it just to stir up fear in the American public – he openly said that. He wanted to bring criminal activity, drug use, addiction all together and make it the bogey-man. The courts went along with this policy and that is why we have now lost so many of our civil rights – like no-knock raids etc. In Humboldt County California, federal police used helicopters and military assault weapons to fish out some acreage of marajuana. Great read to see how we have descended into this policing hell.

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  3. “All you have to do is come to the police station and ask for help. We are here to do just that.”

    No thanks, I don't want "help" from pigs.

    Pigs are NOT qualified to "help" anybody, much less people with substance abuse issues and psychological problems. They are not hired for that, they are not trained for it.

    This is a propaganda piece written by fools and liars.

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  5. When addicts are arrested they should be treated first then serve their time. The problem that most don't consider about addicts is that after they get out they are surrounding themselves with the same people who are their "friends" bc they've destroyed and hurt every other relationship they have with others bc of their addiction. So if you treat them and send them on their way there's a very real chance they'll relapse. This is a good idea but they still need to serve their time for their crime. People still need to be held accountable for their actions.

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  7. You either didn't read or didn't comprehend the article. The cops don't treat you; they take you to the hospital, and volunteers hold your hand to help see you through. Please don't be pigheaded; that just makes everything worse.

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  8. how does spending time in prison help them. it doesn't, it just means they're labelled as a felon and can't hold down a job when they get out, and then have to go back into crime in order to survive. I think that a part of the help they receive would involve life changes so they can escape addiction, honestly. Also, prisons are rife with drugs, so how would serving time help them with their addictions? It won't, it'll just turn an addict into a criminal user. If they have committed a crime against others, or dealt drugs, yes, they need to be held responsible. If their crime is injecting drugs into their own bodies, then that shouldnt be a crime at all.

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  9. I agree, prison time will do more harm than good and most likely reverse if not worsen what rehab will do, meaning complete rehab. It is more of a crime against themselves if they asked for help rather than got caught selling drugs or commiting worse crimes to get drugs.

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