Police patrol officers have been granted the immense responsibility of dealing with drug or narcotics related problems. However, their end results have not been that satisfactory. The paper shall look at the validity of this statement through statistics and goal achievement milestones.
The importance of the police patrol officer in drug investigations
Lyman (77) brings in an insightful analysis on how the police patrol officer acts as an important indicator of what goes in the drug industry. This is because they are able to identify new drug entries. For instance, designer drugs; these are drugs that cause the same effects as conventional ones but they have not yet been criminalized by the justice system. More often than not, manufacturers use the same raw materials as other drugs but employ different methods to synthesise them so that their chemical structures are altered. (Terie, 13)
The patrol officer also possesses the capacity to bring out first hand information on the effects of drugs and what thy have done to their users. On top of that, patrol officers can identify some of the common reasons that lead drug abusers into their habits hence offering real solutions to the problem of drug abuse. For instance Lyman (83) asserts that most people tend to engage in drug abuse because they do not fully understand the repercussions of such actions. This author’s perspective is quite precise because he has interacted with criminals or drug related suspects as a police patrol officer.
Police patrol officers are also crucial in drug investigations owing to the fact that they have a series of law enforcement techniques available to them that can assist in fighting drug abuse and drug related crime. For instance, informants have been shown to be crucial in several crime investigations over the past few years. (Lyman, 87) This scenario is likely to yield greater success if law enforcement officers combine it with mass media. There are several shows that have assisted the police to work more closely with the public regarding certain issues. For instance, the show ‘America’s most wanted’ was responsible for arresting close to five hundred suspects highlighted in the program. This is because persons watching the show would see it and then give law enforcers various hints on where they could locate suspects thus making numerous members of the public informants. (Lyman, 89)
This investigative technique (the use of informants) can lead to a series of advantages in drug related crime. First, it allows law enforcement units to determine where drug dealing occurs thus giving them an opportunity to capture these culprits and prevent occurrence of the crime in the future. Aside from that, informants can reveal new information about all the recent drugs that are entering the market even when they have not been criminalised yet. On top of that, some details about the prices of drugs can also be found thus giving the public an idea of what could be going on in this regard. Informants also assist in indentifying those individuals who may be dealing with the drugs. An officer who may not possess information from certain sources would also find this useful. On top of that, police officers may seem suspicious in certain locations and it would therefore be more effective for them is they opted to use an informant. Sometimes, some officers may need to carry out negotiations with drug suspects and this may be an effective way of dealing with the matter.
Police officers have also played an important role in capturing drug dealers who may be too high up in the drug dealing chain to be caught using conventional investigative techniques, this is why they may sometimes be prompted to use conspiracy investigative techniques (Lyman, 38) It should be noted that this is a type of investigation in which an officer liaises with another individual to commit what appears to be a crime so as to get evidence against a drug dealer. The latter concept entails utilising immense resources within the police force and it may also place the investigator at enormous risk. Nonetheless, it yields highly positive responses.
This technique has been proven to be vey useful in the drug fight but in order for it to work, a police officer and his collaborators must ensure that there is sufficient equipment to protect them and also to record some of the information that they may obtain from the respective suspects. On top of these, it is also essential to consider the type of undercover investigation that needs to be done. Some may require simple tactics such as buy – ins where an officer poses as a drug purchaser. Nonetheless, there may be other instances in which more complex approaches are necessary in order to make the most of a certain circumstances. Ample preparation should be made and costs weighed against benefits because some investigative techniques tend to be too time consuming but they may fail to yield anticipated results. Nonetheless, statistics show that several drug dealers and drug addicts have been caught through these techniques and it can be argued that this has been a relatively effective way of handling the drug problem (Lyman, 46)
On flipside of this argument, experts have argued that the role of the police patrol officer in dealing with the drug problem should be analysed from a sociological perspective. In certain ways, law enforcers have failed in the fight against drug use. First of all, there is the argument that drug use is not a crime in itself because there are no victims. In fact, this has been compared to homosexual behaviour because drug users tend to enter into the habit out of their own accord and the consequences of that choice therefore need to be faced by the concerned individual and not anybody else. However, there is continual evidence to show that most addicts tend to engage in criminal behaviour so drug use does have victims. It is therefore a fact that drug abuse is a problem but the police may not necessarily be the best solution to solve it.
First of all, the criminalisation of drug abuse or the treatment of the drug problem as a police issue creates a subculture of drug taking. In the early twentieth century, the country passed laws that transferred treatment of addicts from health institutions to the criminal justice systems and shortly afterwards, various drug groupings began emerging. The reason for this observation is that whenever something is outlawed, then it goes underground and the people who associate with it tend to have something in common. This subculture is founded on the exoneration of drugs and the highs they create. It is also based on the need to rebel against law enforcers. A number of individuals choose to become addicts because they are drawn by such peer groups and in the end, this perpetuates the drug cycle. (Goode, 200)
Before the police were given the given the responsibility of dealing with narcotics misuse, it used to be the responsibility of health treatment programs within a series of clinics. When the law was passed to criminalise narcotics use, then these addict treatment programs were closed down and efforts were now concentrated on the force. The latter health institutions used to deal with this problem by offering addicts drugs such that they could cope with their addiction. The need to obtain drugs to fuel one’s addiction is a constant fact that will never end irrespective of the policies put in place. Consequently, drug users who would feed their addictions through the free drugs offered by the treatment programs in the early twentieth century no longer had that option in the present century. These drug addicts therefore resorted to illegal or criminal activities to get extra cash that would allow them to buy drugs and hence meet their needs. It can therefore be said that police involvement in dealing with drug abuse has pushed them into illegitimate means of earning a living and thus led to an increase in criminal activities among addicts.
It should be noted here that drugs do not cause one to become moral or immoral. It is the need for financial resources to purchase those drugs that pushes people into crime. Therefore, the police are fighting the wrong war when they assume that drugs somehow cause their uses to be more inclined to commit crimes. If these users have ready access to their drugs without having to pay for them in a drug underworld, then chances are that they may not commit crime. The police are therefore in the narcotics prevention programs for all the wrong reasons. (Goode, 109)
If police narcotics techniques were effective in curbing drug abuse and drug related crime, then the amount of recidivism or relapses should have been on the decline but this is not the case. In fact, studies show that drug related arrests are the second most notorious crimes for relapses. A research carried out in Chicago found that about eighty six percent of the subjects who had been arrested were repeat offenders. The police need to re-evaluate their stance and approach to drug control because clearly, their current methodologies are not yielding substantial results. The situation is further compounded by the prison system. The latter environment is likely to transform a mild drug user into a heavier one because he or she will be residing among individuals who also use it or who perpetuate its usage.
It has also been shown that some law enforcers have been entangled in the drug web. Some police officers do engage in drug peddling as well. This is because some of them may be attracted to the high financial returns that are synonymous to such an underground system. This actually explains why certain drug sellers have not been caught by law enforcers even when there is overwhelming evidence to indicate to the police where the latter groups can be found.
Another important issue that must be addressed is the fact that the ‘war on drugs’ is an area of expertise for police officers. For decades, law enforcers have concentrated substantial resources and time to dealing with this issue. Numerous state funds are granted to them and they therefore depend on this social problem for maintenance. If police officers were too effective in curbing crime, then there would be no reason for their very existence and they would become redundant. It can therefore be said that law enforcers may not give their problem targets all their best efforts because doing so would eliminate the purpose for their establishment. (Houser, 165)
Narcotics investigative techniques have yielded some results as they have led to identification of suspects. However, the numbers indicate that recidivism is high and so are crime rates committed by drug users. It can therefore be said that the police patrol officer only offers short term solutions to the drug problem but there is a need to look for other long term solutions on the matter.
Lyman, Michael. Practical Drug enforcement. Upper Saddle River: CRC, 2006
Goode, Erich. Drugs in American society. New York: Mc Grawhill publishers, 2007
Terie, Yvette. “Help for impaired pharmacists.” Hospital physician, 2003
Houser, Norman. Drugs- uses and abuses. New York: Harper and Row, 2004