Newsbrief: Brit Police Chief Says Legalize Heroin, Irks Other Cops 2/13/04

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One of Britain's police chiefs told the BBC last week that heroin ought to be legalized and was nicely reamed for his efforts by some of his colleagues, who all but called him a traitor to the cause. The brouhaha came about when North Wales Police Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom told the BBC Wales' political talk show Dragon's Eye on February 5 that current drug laws "do more harm than good" and he was prepared to see heroin sold openly.

"Heroin is a very, very addictive substance, extremely addictive, far more so than nicotine, but it's not very, very dangerous. It's perfectly possible to lead a normal life for a full life span and hold down a job while being addicted to heroin," Brunstrom told the BBC. "I don't advocate anybody abusing their body with drugs but clearly some want to. What would be wrong with making heroin available on the state for people who wanted to abuse their bodies? What is wrong with that?"

Legalizing drugs would destroy a multi-million dollar criminal trade, said Brunstrom, adding that he has received "massive" public support for his views. "The question is actually not 'am I prepared to see the government selling heroin on the street corner or through the pharmacy?', but 'why would we not want to do that? What is wrong with that?'" he said. "It's a very challenging question. I don't know what society's answer is, but my answer is that is what we should be doing because our current policy is causing more harm than good."

As for public support for change, he said: "I've had overwhelming support at the very least for a no-holds barred, all-options considered, total review of the drugs laws. There is an enormous number of people of all age groups and all sections of our society who are ready to see a root and branch change to our drugs laws."

But not the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), which quickly announced that Brunstrom's views were his personal ones and did not reflect ACPO positions. And certainly not London's top drug cop, Tarique Ghaffur, Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, who not only called Brunstrom's remarks "dangerous and divisive," but also pronounced heroin "evil."

"Any suggestion that we should relax our approach is not only dangerous but divisive and undermines the hard work of police officers in London who are trying to stamp out the evil of heroin through enforcement, education and partnership with those communities who are most vulnerable," said Ghaffur in a statement released to the press the next day. "Not only does this drug wreck people's lives and that of their families, it also destroys communities and it has to be stamped out now."

But Ghaffur didn't explain how he was going to stamp it out.

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