More Dopey Dope On Drugs

The way we go about trying to deal with the problems that surround illegal drug use is pathetic, stuck in moral attitudes from a time when we peddled the stuff abroad whilst issuing prohibition here.   I can see no problem with drug-taking of any kind that doesn’t breach the peace or inflict costs on others beyond give and take.

I believe the moral approbation current practice in the UK relies on on drugs and sex needs to be swept away.  This would be to clear the way for much better control of health and peace in our communities without criminalisation.  I also believe we need sweeping changes in our legal system and that these issues could be the test ground for producing a new system more clearly linked to a fairer system based much more directly on public dialogue.

The squalid depravity of drink, drugs and the sex trade need to be exposed, as well as gross unfairness that lumps someone taking cannabis to ease pain with some scrote blaring out music, acting as a neighbourhood fence (for anything from stolen jeans to under-age sex) and ruining lives around him/her.  Just changing possession laws is not the answer, and could lead to even more difficulty dealing with associated problems.

I’d go for key changes in administrative law, including the tracking of criminal profits to prevent vice turning to rackets.  The Dutch have taken very significant steps, but have not got it all right.  I certainly prefer coffee shops on Main Street to shebeens on estates.  Pubs and clubs might just be places to allow supply and use.

Politicians totally fail us in this area.  We need the debate and decisions out of their barking interests and in our hands.  This would be a great area to try our new techniques of public dialogue and referendum.


Decriminalising the police (to let them get on with preventing crime)

A happy New Year to all the decent officers we can’t do without.  All our lives would be better if we could find a way for these excellent people to get on with keeping the peace.  I’d like to see a lot of policing decriminalised, from the odd bent cop who turns up to a lot of what makes up day-to-day coppering.  The aim would be to find a way to value police work and officers in a different way.  All very challenging, with a need to better understand the challenges on the street good officers put themselves in the way of far more than some.  The system will never be immaculate (except on HMIC visits), but it could be easier to work with, and both more democratic and effective.  What analysis there is tends to be managerial-financial, and needs to start with the street-level even for any of this to work.  My suspicion is that the discipline society needs cannot be enforced or encouraged by criminalisation.  This need not be some kind of ‘leftie liberal whinge’ as we could proceed with a view to coming down harder on disorder and dire behaviour.  We need something radical because our CJS is a busted flush.  We lack a real public dialogue on this and what really affects most of our lives.  In the meantime, brave men and women get it in the neck in a system that is ‘criminal’ in all the wrong ways.  Good luck to them.

The most discussed decriminalisation concerns drugs.  I’m generally in favour, because the ‘war on drugs’ doesn’t work, and is part of the creation of a wide criminal industry.  This, of course, can’t be the end of the story.  Apart from treating the issues through a medical model, there remain severe nuisance problems (not coped with well now) and criminal adaptivity (what rackets might be created and where would the criminality transfer).  Questions remain about how much of the bulk of current minor crime and violence could be subject to alternatives to police action if we could understand them differently and how new procedures could be effective and tough, rather than wet.  There are clues in the average IQ of people passing through police hands (dumb), the welfare sponsored, sub-minimum wage economies exploited by wealthy criminals and lack of alternatives in legal employment.

There seems little doubt that we have created a monster in our public services generally.  There is a fatal nexus of managerial over-staffing, over-payment and bent performance management that suits politicians in power.  I suspect even the financial drain of this exceeds all criminal industries put together, and that the real costs on moral and lack of necessary change exceed this in real, personal terms.  We end up with an excuse culture that is hostile to fair criticism and shuns responsibility.

There is a general tendency to set up an ‘evil poor’ as the problem, perhaps as minority groups have always been set up.  Yet it is other interest groups that grow richer.  We have an over-populated managerial-political class that interferes with everything, yet under-manages and creates systems that suit its needs, not the problems we face.  ACPO is a classic example, but only an example.

The decriminalisation process needs to replace current IPCC, HMIC and PSDs with a single body taking account of local public concerns (no elected police chiefs), victims’ representation and civilian organisation of complaints.  The rest is about getting a great deal of effective power to street officers through decriminalised processes as far as possible, in order to release our forces into work that is real policing, to break the cycle of hopeless, recidivist cases and drunken mile regulation.  It would be interesting to know more about who and what actually causes the need for so much expenditure on wasted cycles of recidivism in the tide of petty crime and antisocial behaviour, even to the extent of protest movements of those who feel there is no alternative to turning out on the streets, or into shops and businesses perceived as not playing fair.

The problems that need taking into account extend well beyond anything police officers do, and what we want them to be able to do and they cannot.  Glib phrases like ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’ need to be treated as dire lies, unless they are costed and worked through in terms of how they are to be effective other than as political salesmanship.  What we have is complex problems that feed many vested interests and wallets.  We need a grip on what the costs of the vicious circle are and who is bearing them, who is retaining the money and whether any of the actions being taken are likely to reduce the costs or change any behaviour or quality of life.  I suspect the police fail so much of the time because they are dealing with symptoms not the disease and the real problems that should not, in the first place, be in their remit.

There is no point in doing projects that have massive and obvious costs we can’t afford so politicians can point to ‘success stories’.  We need to take the whole bag on and accept a change in balance on civil rights towards the maintenance of a right to quiet peace.  Things are so bad, we can’t even get this in many classrooms, let alone the drunken mile or next door to drug addicts.  The answers are complex, but we can’t even seriously talk and debate the problems.