cannabisnews.com: Police Chief Scorns Cannabis Pilot Critics 





Police Chief Scorns Cannabis Pilot Critics 
Posted by CN Staff on July 01, 2002 at 20:12:47 PT
By Nick Hopkins and Vikram Dodd
Source: Guardian Unlimited UK
The controversial police commander who pioneered the cannabis pilot project in Lambeth today condemns his critics, saying they have consistently failed to tell the truth about what is really happening in the borough by relying on anecdote rather than facts. Writing exclusively in the Guardian to mark the first anniversary of the launch of the project, Mr Paddick says there is no evidence to show that children are at more risk of being drawn into a drug culture, or that Lambeth has become a destination for drug tourists - two of the main concerns raised by opponents to the initiative. 
"Children at risk may be a perception rather than a reality ... if there seems to be more children smoking, perhaps they are being more blatant about it, or maybe people are more aware now of what has been happening in Lambeth for years? Of drug tourism, he says: "The fact is cannabis and other drugs are so easily available in all parts of London, and in other parts of the country, who would want to come to Brixton for them? "Particularly when you consider the way Brixton is portrayed in the media as some kind of dangerous, lawless, wasteland (another gross exaggeration). Drug tourism appears to be the expectation rather than the reality." Mr Paddick accepts that there is considerable confusion about the project, but believes that a relentless media campaign against him and the experiment is at least partly to blame for the mixed messages. He does, however, have the support of some senior officers. Last week the deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan police, Ian Blair, told the police authority that the experiment was "undoubtedly a success - in statistical terms". At the same meeting Sir John Stevens, the Met commissioner, made a point of saying that it was his decision to endorse the initiative, which was launched a year ago today. In the same week, the deputy assistant commissioner Mike Fuller, the Met officer in charge of drugs strategy, described the time that had been saved since the project started as "a godsend". PublicityBrian Paddick was hardly a household name in Lambeth, let alone the rest of the country, when, as borough commander, he told his overworked officers to caution rather than arrest people caught in possession of cannabis, so they could concentrate on tackling hardnut crack and heroin dealers. Now Lambeth is the battleground for the future of policing cannabis, the last stand for campaigners who want to persuade the home secretary, David Blunkett, not to reclassify the drug from class B to class C, a move that would effectively roll out the Lambeth experiment nationwide; at the moment there is no automatic power of arrest for this class of narcotic. Mr Paddick, now widely known as the most senior openly gay police officer in the country, has already become a victim of the row. He has been moved to other duties pending an inquiry into allegations about his personal life made by a former lover, who was paid 100,000 for his story by two Sunday tabloid newspapers. But the experiment has endured. And the Met appears to have been emboldened into a qualified defence of the pilot in the face of some vociferous local opposition because of research that challenges those two main criticisms: that more children are smoking cannabis and that the borough has become a venue for drugs tourism. A questionnaire was sent to all the borough's secondary and primary schools asking headteachers if they had noticed any evidence to suggest that more pupils were using cannabis. Seven of the 10 secondary schools replied, and 50 of the 66 primary schools. Feedback"The feedback is very clear," said Brian Moore, Lambeth's acting borough commander. "So far there has been no escalation, which is a reassuring response to some of those concerns." Only one school in the borough was prepared to talk about this yesterday. Leslie Morrison, headteacher of the St Martin's in the Fields high school for girls, said the pilot had had no effect on her 675 pupils. "Cannabis use is not an issue inside the school." On drugs tourism, analysis of police data of the 1,190 cautions for possession since last year suggests that there has been no increase in the number of people coming into the borough to buy drugs. The proportions are roughly the same as they were last year. Has the experiment caused a crime wave? Street robbery in Lambeth has been halved since October last year. In that month, there were 916. In May, there were 438. And between January and May last year, police in the borough arrested 249 people for possession of cannabis. In the same period this year, 740 warnings were issued. More than 1,200 people have been stopped and searched for drugs in the last year. Senior Met officers insist it is not true to suggest that police have given up on policing cannabis; more is being done now than ever before. Yet Mr Blair has admitted that the "perception [in the borough] is different", and there is an acceptance within Scotland Yard that a failure to properly explain what the experiment was aiming to achieve has led to confusion and mixed messages over legality. Critics such as the Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey say the amount of police time the pilot has saved - the equivalent of two extra officers on the beat - is pitiful compared with the harm that it has caused. The questionnaire from the schools is not valid evidence, she said yesterday. "This is what infuriates me. It's absolute nonsense to rely on the questionnaire because it's not the children in school who are at greatest risk. It is those who are truanting, the children who are not part of the mainstream that teachers are not in touch with." Ms Hoey is due to meet the home secretary tomorrow and will urge him not to reclassify cannabis. She believes the borough "has more drug dealers than ever before", and that children are being given the message that "cannabis is no worse for you than sweets". Ms Hoey's position has been supported by other leading members of the Lambeth community and local councillors. Dr Clare Gerada, a member of the Consultancy Liaison Addiction Service, told reporters that she knew of children who were smoking cannabis for breakfast, and that the drug's popularity seemed to have soared in recent months The Rev Chris Andre-Watson, from Brixton Baptist church, has said he knew of children as young as 12 arriving at school stoned. Paul Amdell, of the Lambeth police consultative group, is a supporter of the experiment, but even he concedes that the Met has not got its central message across. "We need to develop the pilot to ensure young people know cannabis is still illegal." Crack cocaineDrug workers insist, though, that cannabis use is the least of the borough's drug problems. With crack cocaine and heroin use on the rise - not to mention speedballs, a potent mix of crack and heroin - they do not want officers wasting time rounding up cannabis users. Justina Bennis, who works for Mainliners, an HIV and hepatitis C prevention charity covering Lambeth, said: "We are pleased to see the police concentrating on these and not cannabis. There is no more cannabis use on the streets. Police are concentrating resources on class A drugs, which is the real problem." Another drug worker with 10 years experience in the borough also backs the experiments. He did not wish to be named. "It's like the media are saying we never had a crack problem before the experiment. We've had crack for years. The experiment has made absolutely no difference to the amount of people presenting themselves at the centre where I work. "Our biggest problem is heroin and crack, and over the last few years there has been a huge explosion in crack. Cannabis is an irrelevancy when it comes to people suffering from drug problems." The Met says it cannot police cannabis in any practical sense in an area such as Lambeth; its opponents say it has abandoned a principle that has made a harmful drug appear legal. Mr Blunkett will show which argument he is persuaded by within a fortnight. Mr Paddick believes it is essential that the truth of what is happening in Lambeth is made public. "People need to see the whole picture. In recent months, all they have heard is one side of the argument." Note: As Blunkett decides whether to reclassify drug, pioneer at centre of Lambeth row disputes opponents' evidence. Special Report Drugs in Britain: http://www.guardian.co.uk/drugs/0,2759,178206,00.htmlSource: Guardian Unlimited, The (UK)Author: Nick Hopkins and Vikram DoddPublished: Tuesday, July 2, 2002Copyright: 2002 Guardian Newspapers LimitedContact: comment guardian.co.uk Website: http://www.guardian.co.uk/Related Articles & Web Site:Drugs Uncovered: Observer Special http://freedomtoexhale.com/dc.htmMy Drugs Policy is Working http://cannabisnews.com/news/thread13280.shtmlLambeth Cannabis Pilot: The Facts http://cannabisnews.com/news/thread13279.shtmlBrixton? Right Now It's a 24-hr Crack Supermarkethttp://cannabisnews.com/news/thread13205.shtml Lambeth Street Crime Falls 50% http://cannabisnews.com/news/thread13008.shtml
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Comment #5 posted by SpaceCat on July 02, 2002 at 15:23:14 PT
Hooey
They apparently left a letter out of Ms. Kate's name!How come our side always has facts, figures, statistics, and surveys, and the other side has always "heard of" something? How come no one calls them on this? Why do "heard of's" get equal coverage alongside scientifically valid info?
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Comment #4 posted by Dan B on July 02, 2002 at 01:38:46 PT:
Check this out . . .
If you don't see a big pile of doo-doo heading for the fan for the federal government and we citizens after reading this article, I don't think you understand how Revolutions are born . . .http://www.commondreams.org/headlines02/0701-08.htmDan B
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Comment #3 posted by p4me on July 01, 2002 at 23:21:02 PT
More police corruption from <I>The Australian<
Just another story about corruption: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,4618763%255E2702,00.html Here is the first paragraph:Police drug dealers: claim
By Colleen Egan 
July 02, 2002DRUG theft and trafficking by a group of West Australian detectives were the first allegations raised in the long-awaited royal commission into police corruption yesterday.1,2
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Comment #2 posted by Industrial Strength on July 01, 2002 at 20:46:57 PT
so funny to me
"Critics such as the Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey say the amount of police time the pilot has saved - the equivalent of two extra officers on the beat - is pitiful compared with the harm that it has caused.""In the same week, the deputy assistant commissioner Mike Fuller, the Met officer in charge of drugs strategy, described the time that had been saved since the project started as "a godsend"."Im sure the MP knows way more about the importance of the time saved compared to the Met officer in charge of drugs strategy. Surely the average reader will pick up on that?????Im sure Ms Hoey knows more than the drug councilors working the streets as well. Surely the average reader will pick up on that as well?????I wish the author had arranged it as I had.
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Comment #1 posted by E_Johnson on July 01, 2002 at 20:18:45 PT
My sentiments exactly
Paul Amdell, of the Lambeth police consultative group, is a supporter of the experiment, but even he concedes that the Met has not got its central message across. "We need to develop the pilot to ensure young people know cannabis is still illegal."
Yes, exactly, because the young people need to know that there is still work to be done in this struggle.
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