Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog


Fighting the Drug Infestation

Yesterday, I talked about Henry, and his responsibility for the circumstances of his death. I lightly touched on several issues surrounding addiction, including the diminished capacity to make rational decisions when high, and when in withdrawal. And then I started to examine just what we can do in the face of the dangers of teenaged drug use. Considering that many if not most drug users start experimenting well before they hit 18, we can't simply say they made their choice and paid the price. Nor can we hold their parents completely responsible, since kids over the age of 12 will often make decisions that directly conflict with what their parents taught them.

So how do we deal with cases like this? How do we properly apportion responsibility and mete out justice? Fortunately, as a nation of laws, we do have a clear cut path forward but it requires a tremendous amount of personal integrity.

First, we have to check our prejudices at the door. We have to put away any moralizing about the victims and the accused. Calling Henry a drug dealer is accurate, but as Katie points out, it isn't a full description of him any more than 'tax cheat' is a complete description of Timothy Geithner. And more importantly, it should be completely irrelevant when we are talking about justice. His addiction drove him into dangerous places and activities; however, that does not in any way lessen the responsibility of anybody who took advantage of that addiction to harm him.

Second, we have to apply the law equally, without partiality. Had Henry been arrested, tried, and convicted for dealing, I have no doubt that Katie and Chris would have no issues with Henry serving time as prescribed by law. But that wasn't what happened. Henry was robbed, beaten, and then given a lethal dose of an illegal drug. That's not justice in any form. Henry should not have been treated like a second class citizen by the KCSD; his case should have been vigorously investigated and prosecuted. Instead, the KCSD literally phoned in the investigation, resulting in a failure to gather any evidence to support prosecution. Contrast this with the work of the KPD. Once the KCSD closed the case, the KPD went into action. Rather than limiting themselves to Henry's death, they took the copious amount of information available in the case files and went to work. Over a period of weeks, the KPD developed evidence, presented it to a grand jury, and garnered arrests of all key players. There's no reason the KCSD couldn't have done the same thing.

That they didn't is evidence enough of their lack of effort on this case.

Third, we have to vigorously attack the problem at it's source. Opinions vary as to whether drug interdiction or education is more effective at controlling drug use. That's not a question that will be answered in a blog, but given the fact that we know kids are vulnerable, that their capacity for reason is not fully developed at the time they are first introduced to drug use, interdiction must play a key role in protecting them from drug predators.

This is a community problem, not one that can be solved by any police force no matter how dedicated. By definition, police are reactive; when they get involved, it's already too late. Somebody has been hurt. In order to protect kids, we have to be proactive. I'm not talking about Federal or state programs to regulate drugs or limit their availability; that's a failing strategy. And I'm not talking about more drug awareness programs, which are another failure. These two approaches share the same flaw; they go from the top down. They rely on a slow reacting bureaucracy dominated by special interests and hamstrung by conflicting priorities. While our children are dying, our government agencies are debating the merits of midnight basketball leagues.

I'm talking about real community involvement at the local level. I'm talking about neighbors standing up and making their neighborhood unattractive to dealers. Everyone I've talked to knows where the crack houses are in their neighborhood. Meth labs aren't secret. Each time one is taken down, the news will interview residents who say they knew something was going on, but either didn't think they should say something, or did say something and the police failed to respond. We know where the bad neighborhoods are, and it's very easy to pawn off the problem as one that concerns only the people who live there, but the truth is that the drug blight affects us all. We often hear about the 50% of the victims of drug violence come from the inner cities. What we don't stop to consider is that figure means that 50% come from the suburbs.

The only way we will ever get control of illegal drugs is to make it very clear that we won't tolerate it. Period.

I'm not saying we should take the law into our own hands and go for some vigilante justice; what I am saying is that it is up to us to make sure that our own little slice of the world is free from infestation, and then turn around and help the folks next door do the same thing.

The final step is the hardest one of all, and we'll talk about that on Friday.

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