A Drug Strategy for Police and Crime Commissioners

A Drug Strategy for Police and Crime Commissioners

A critical role for the new PCCs will be to set the budget for the Police Force’s annual Policing Plan.  Impact assessments of current or proposed practices will be integral to this process.  Will the proposed action be practical? Will it deliver the intended benefits? Will it do so in the most efficient way?

This is not a step into operational interference; the Chief Constable will propose activities based on his or her expertise, but they will only be funded if they meet those tests.  This is no more than the PCC fulfilling his or her duty to the citizens he or she represents.  Public money should not be spent on expensive, ineffective activities.

When it comes to drug law enforcement over the last 40 years there is clear evidence that the key aims of supply and demand reduction have not been met.  Supply and consumption has increased substantially over that period, and the number of criminals involved and profits  from the illicit market (estimated at up to £6 billion per annum) has also increased substantially.  Unfortunately this failure has also been accompanied by huge expenditure by the government (estimated at over £10 billion per annum).  This is not a sustainable state of affairs.

It is beyond the scope of this strategy to change the current laws, but it is reasonable to exercise discretion in how they are enforced.  Police are already constantly making choices about how to deploy limited resources to deliver maximum benefits to citizens.

As a PCC, I would abandon failed drug law enforcement objectives such as numbers of arrests and amount of drugs seized and introduce objectives designed to reduce harms such as drug-related violence, corruption and crime, community disorder, addiction and avoidable death and disease.

Under prohibition drug dealing will not be eradicated, the last 40 years have shown us that, and it is therefore pointless to work towards that objective.  It does make sense, however, to seek to minimise the harmful activities of drug dealers, perhaps by arrest and prosecution, but also by other methods that might be more effective and better value for money.  Our current approach may make us feel better when a drug dealer is sent to prison, but it does not impact the market.

We have not yet asked the police to adopt this new approach.  Many police officers know that the current system isn’t working therefore we should not limit our options to only the criminal justice based approach.  I am confident that the police will quickly adapt and innovate and there are opportunities to learn from effective examples in the UK and around the world.

Those resources that are available to the PCC to deploy towards community safety would be spread among organisations that would work together in pursuit of these new common objectives.  Instead of prosecuting drug users, an expensive and counter-productive activity, efforts would be directed towards co-ordinated efforts to help and support people on the road to a better, less harmful and more productive life.

Police would collaborate with partners, not conflict with them, in seeking joint solutions to these issues.

Evidence shows that spending on treatment saves considerably more money elsewhere, e.g. reduced crime and health costs.

This approach will help the police to direct their limited resources more efficiently at delivering real benefits to the citizens they serve.

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About tomclloyd

International Drug Policy Adviser and former UK Chief Constable
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4 Responses to A Drug Strategy for Police and Crime Commissioners

  1. Pingback: Jason Reed: Cannabis Use Can Lower Teenage IQs? – It’s High Time We Take This Seriously | Country Talk Forum

  2. aboulomanic says:

    you make a sound case, but as a former chief constable, why didn’t you say anything while you had the power and influence? it seems that as soon as our experienced senior public servants leave office they suddenly develop the ability to speak reasonably about this issue. why not before?

    • tomclloyd says:

      When in office I had a duty to uphold the law (created through a legitimate democratic process) even though I disgreed with much of our approach. This did cause me concern, a concern that I shared with many colleagues both within and outside the police service, including government ministers. I did challenge in public meetings, for example, those who suggested I should operate a “zero tolerance” approach to drug possession. Overall, though, I did not think it appropriate for me robustly and publicy to challenge the law that those whom I served wanted me to enforce. Part of my duty was to gain and maintain public confidence in the service that I led. While it did occur to me to leave, I felt that I would be able to do more good in the longer term if I was able, as I now am, to advocate drug policy reform as a former Chief of Police. I have better access to those in power and influence, which means that I still have some power and influence, as a former Chief of Police. I can speak much more freely now about my true beliefs and I am also much better informed about the process than I would have been if I had left early.
      It’s a very good question and I do reflect on whether I could have done things differently and better. Well, maybe; but I’m looking forward now, not backwards. Maybe the fact that I am speaking out now will help to create an environment where more serving officers can feel free to express their concerns about what is a very expensive and counter-productive failure.

  3. Pingback: Jason Reed: Cannabis Use Can Lower Teenage IQs? – It’s High Time We Take This Seriously | GumDay

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