Sunday, 31 October 2010

Sir Ken Jones(Deputy Police Comm.) is Wrong

What a sad state, Victoria is. With our premier and opposition leader both publicly fighting over who can decry drugs more than the other, we are left to deal with the carnage caused by failed drug policy. As they merrily play politics with people’s lives, we miss out on the opportunity to have a mature debate about drugs.

We are not proposing to change anything in that area 

We had a big debate about these areas 10 or 15 years ago, I think all of the measures that we have put in place since then, which have been a combination by the way of on the one hand harm minimisation measures, and on the other increased enforcement and tougher laws, I think those things have worked well.

It’s not on our agenda to look at any decriminalisation or legalisation of drugs.
--John Brumby: Victorian Premier

But it’s not just John Brumby and the Labor Party that need a good dose of reality. Opposition leader, Ted Baillieu is even more tangled up in drug war rhetoric.

Ted Baillieu has regularly said that he is opposed to decriminalisation and was recently reported to have said that “the idea of legalising some drugs could lead to more psychosis and poor health outcomes”.

Over the years, Ted Baillieu has held on steadfast to his opinion about drugs and it seems no amount of scientific research or attempts by experts to clarify the facts, will tempt him to look more carefully at the issue. Like a well tuned media machine, Baillieu spits out cherry picked data designed to fool the public.

The Coalition does not and will not support the decriminalisation of illegal drugs because illegal drugs cause serious mental and physical damage to many Victorian families

For example, the Mental Health Council of Australia has found that cannabis users are three times more likely to develop psychosis and that Victorian secondary school students who use cannabis weekly are five times more likely to harm themselves.
--Ted Baillieu: Victorian Opposition leader

Both Brumby and Baillieu are relics from the past who still consider the gathering of voter support is more important than people’s lives. I hope one day, they will be forced to explain their selfish behaviour to those families who have had their lives ruined by ignorant, destructive drug laws.

The subject of a debate on drug laws was pushed into the spotlight this week when Deputy Police Commissioner, Sir Ken Jones was misquoted by the media. The story actually made world news along the lines of, “Top Cop Wants Debate On Drug Legalisation”. Jonesy would have joined an ever growing chorus of senior police around the world calling for a change to drug laws. But it was not to be. Jonesy is dead against any form of decriminalisation or legalisation.

Yes it’s difficult, yes it’s tough but we got to continue with the current approach … there isn’t an alternative.
I’ve always been and will always remain a strong advocate of the current approach, to go in any other direction is just a counsel of despair
--Deputy Police Commissioner Sir Ken Jones

Victoria’s Deputy Police Commissioner is adamant that those calling for changes to the law just need to open their eyes. According to Jonesy, academics are naive because they haven’t seen the damage caused by drugs. Of course, sitting in the Deputy Police Commissioner’s office all day gives Ken a real world view. Certainly, Jonesy doesn’t get his information from compiled reports like those out-of-touch academics? 

What I have said is that some of these people that approach this academically ought to get down in the neighbourhoods and communities and see the damage that’s been done.
--Deputy Police Commissioner Sir Ken Jones

Sir Ken holds an important position in the Victorian Police Force and therefore he should be up-to-date with current issues relating to his job. Making half-baked claims that defy the latest research should concern all Victorians. Part of Sir Ken’s recipe for success is to target the supply side of the drug market in countries that produce illegal drugs. If anything has become clear from the “War on Drugs”, it’s the realisation that demand drives supply. The US spent billions over two decades trying to stop Colombia’s cocaine cartels only to find they emerged next door in other Latin America countries. Heroin coming from Turkey, Afghanistan and India was all but eliminated once but Burma and other Asian nations had simply taken over production. Now, Afghanistan heroin has made a huge comeback with every indication it will continue to supply most of the world for many years to come. And then there’s Mexico. When your country’s military forces can’t defeat the drug cartels, you know have a problem. There is simply too much money to be made from illegal drugs and with massive demand, supply will never dry up.

[Question from Neil Mitchell - 3AW: You got all these people in pretty senior positions as you’re describing who think it isn’t working. Are they wrong?]

I think they’re wrong. I think they’re selective in their arguments and if they’re going to debate this, let’s factor in the horrible ugly truth, the horrible ugly reality that 30,000 people were killed in narco wars in Mexico. The damage that’s done, the consequence of …  We had some homicides in Melbourne some years ago and a lot of that conflict was over drug dealing. You know they just need to open their eyes to that and say ‘OK, here’s an issue but to just walk away from it, to me is just a counsel of despair.
--Deputy Police Commissioner Sir Ken Jones

I may not be the smartest kid on the block but isn’t the main reason for legalising drugs, is that it will remove the drug profits that make organised crime so powerful? Isn’t it the massive profits made under current drug laws that fuel most of our problems? Most people seem to know this except for Ken Jones. 

We have to be very, very tough and robust at the other end where we see addicted people and the crime that they commit. 
--Deputy Police Commissioner Sir Ken Jones

Jonesy’s other plan was to retain tough police action against drug users. Jonesy offered plenty of colourful rhetoric about the dangers of drug use and was happy to push the standard myths that have dogged us for over 6 decades. Sir Ken Jones doesn’t like drugs or drug users. His inflexible views sound more like a misguided passion than an opinion and look out if you disagree. 

I think you have to look at it (drug courts), case by case because people who are absolutely addicted beyond help, they should and will be punished but they also need treatment and help as well.  
--Deputy Police Commissioner Sir Ken Jones

This is breathtaking. “… people who are absolutely addicted beyond help, they should and will be punished …”. Is Sir Ken really suggesting that addiction itself is a crime and should be punished? It’s this mindset, where addiction is not considered a medical condition but a law & order issue, that is so repugnant. I can’t help but feel repulsed at this attitude. Can anyone imagine someone in his position calling for alcoholics or cigarette smokers to be “punished” because they are addicted? 

This type of obdurate behaviour as seen in many anti-drug zealots, will often involve mass exaggeration and a reliance on popular myths. Assumptions like all drug use will lead to addiction or the debunked ‘Gateway Theory’ should have ceased years ago but reliable research seems to have no place in the drug debate when Sir Ken and co. have their say.

These people and I heard them, some senior public policy officials - i’m not going to name them - some academics have, what I regard to be extremely naive views. … The minute you try to and regulate, try to manage some of these substances they going to move off into something else. It’s just a complete dead end. All I was saying was you need to go and look at the damage, open your eyes to the harm that’s been done in our community before you start to talk in this way. And as a father, I don’t want my kid being exposed to yet another lawful narcotic. I mean, it’s just bizarre.
--Deputy Police Commissioner Sir Ken Jones

If anyone is naive, it’s Sir Ken Jones. There is no evidence whatsoever that the strategies championed by Jonesy have ever worked. But, there is evidence that decriminalisation has much more success than the conventional, “Tough on Drugs” strategy. We only have to look at Portugal, Switzerland and the Netherlands to see that utilising scientific research by the very same academics that Jonesy slams, has achieved much better results than trying to out-police the drug problem. It disingenuous to claim that academics are blind to the problems caused by drugs. In fact, they would be far more experienced with the harms associated with drug use. The difference is that academics look at the whole situation without allowing personal views cloud their results. Unfortunately, Jonesy does allow his emotions to dictate his official position.

And as a father, I don’t want my kid being exposed to yet another lawful narcotic.
Why would you want our children expose to this rubbish, to damage their bodies and their prospects for the rest of their lives.
--Deputy Police Commissioner Sir Ken Jones

When considering your view on drug law reform, you need to ask yourself whether the opinions - and that’s what they are … just opinions - of a staunch anti-drug zealot is more compelling than 20+ years of research by thousands of scientists/medical experts/social welfare professionals. You have to weigh up the evidence versus someone’s personal opinion. You have to look at the history of failed government policy where the drug problem has skyrocketed each decade. In a nutshell, has the “War on Drugs” had any success at all?

Sir Ken is part of the new breed of police hierarchy that is university educated. He holds a BA (Hons) and an MBA from the University of Sheffield. He is a police officer, first and foremost. His life is law enforcement.

Sir Ken has served on the force at Sussex (Chief Constable), South Yorkshire, Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster in the UK where he received three Chief Constable’s Commendations before settling in as President of Association of Chief Police Officers for England, Wales and Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom. He has also served in Zimbabwe, USA and Hong Kong in the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). Sir Ken has also received the Queen’s Police Medal.

Being a career copper might have it’s advantages but how do those at the top separate what’s best for the community whilst keeping their position in the new, highly politicised world of policing? Victoria is a classic example where executive police appointments have become part of the political landscape with Christine Nixon becoming the first victim. Some people have criticised this new strategy with Sir Ken’s appointment coming under scrutiny. Will career professionals resort to political posturing instead of focussing on sensible, rational and honest policing? 

But that's not to say he agrees with Overland on everything. For instance, he is a vehement critic of decriminalisation of drugs.
"I am not a supporter of that all," he says. As the father of a daughter who is in her final year of university, he believes increasing access to harmful drugs will take a terrible social toll and put extraordinary pressures on the health system, while those in the drug trade will simply move on to other lucrative criminal ventures.

It's a stark contrast to Overland, who revealed in an interview with The Australian in March that he was open to the prospect of decriminalising a range of drugs, including heroin, if it could be shown the benefits outweighed the risks.

We are seeing more and more senior police giving the media, sensationalist but often misguiding press coverage of drug busts. This “drugs on the table” approach was popular in the 1970s as records were set for the size of drug busts but by the 1980s, there were so many that the public became blasé. 

The drug problem is so massive that police are forced to use creative poli-speak, hiding the truth behind a perceived success. The truth is, we capture only a fraction of the available drugs in our community but the police and politicians continue to give the impression that they are winning the "War on Drugs”?  

[Question from Neil Mitchell - 3AW: These synthetic drugs, are they harder to police?] 

No, I mean we’ve had incredible good successes across Victoria with clandestine laboratory operations, we call them “clan labs” and we’ve seen a huge uplift in that and our crime department has been very effective in taking this on. 
--Deputy Police Commissioner Sir Ken Jones

It’s this type of dodgy answer that obscures the actual volume of illicit drugs in Australia. What Jonesy is really saying is that illicit drug production is rapidly increasing and thus, the police are finding more “clan labs”. With less than 10% of drugs in Australia being confiscated by police, more busts mean more drugs in circulation. It seems that it’s compulsory to congratulate your police colleagues regardless of their success.  

Particular in Australia with the federal police and the ACC, we got an incredibly powerful record of interdicting drugs and about disrupting the network for those involved in it.
--Deputy Police Commissioner Sir Ken Jones

Are these attempts to fool the public, really necessary? They are if we continue to pursue the strategies supported by Ken Jones. And that’s the crux of the problem - we refuse to accept reality and continue to deny that drugs have always been and always will be entrenched in society. No matter how many people we bust, there will always be plenty of dealers willing to earn massive profits.

But the fact that they've been quite a resilient organised crime group - it wasn't that long ago, a couple of months ago that we seized five blocks of heroin which is about $3 million of heroin and about $645,000 cash and this group didn't miss a heartbeat.

Rarely do political savvy officers come out and announce that their expensive and resource heavy drug bust will have absolutely no effect on the overall drug trade. Instead we are usually given the old “drugs on the table” treatment along with some back-patting and a promise that drug dealers are shaking in their boots. Tricking the public and the culture of congratulating fellow officers for perceived success does not help address the drug problem. It might give piece of mind to some parents and appease the politicians, but the drug problem only grows each decade.

He(Sir Ken Jones) also paid tribute to the efforts of law enforcement across Australia, and Victoria Police, on their many successful operations against those who are involved in illicit drug manufacture, trafficking and dealing.

Efforts which have seen drug related deaths fall in Melbourne, record seizures of drugs and record closures of clandestine laboratories.

I often read about law enforcement officers who claim there is a general consensus amongst their peers that current drug laws have failed but they keep their opinions private. Reflecting this is the rise of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) who have a worldwide membership of over 15,000 people in 86 countries. Each year their membership significantly increases. 

LEAP represents the changing attitudes of society to a failed drug war that is causing more problems than it claims to fix. Like LEAP, a multitude of organisations have sprung up over the last 10 years challenging the "War on Drugs" mentality and demanding some honesty (and compassion) from policy makers. It’s been a long, slow road for these groups but their message is finally gathering momentum. 

Here is a sample: 

and more.

Victorian Deputy Police Commissioner, Sir Ken Jones is wrong. So is John Brumby and Ted Baillieu. Their arguments are flawed and the evidence is against them. Being in positions of power and trust, they owe it to us - those who pay them - to ditch their misguided views and follow the facts. People are dying and families are being ruined by out-of-date, non-evidential policies and laws. There is no room in a so called, advanced society for such damaging policies that are based on ideology, moral imperatives or personal views. Drug use is a medical/social issue which needs to be addressed by way of scientific research, medical know how and compassion for those who become dependant. We have tried prohibition and it has failed. It’s time to listen to the experts who spend their lives researching the problem and offer a better solution to such a complex issue.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Terry for exposing this farce.

Ken Jones is as silly as a wheelbarrow who blew his agenda when he mentioned his daughter.

We need to get rid of this dinosaur.

Vic Resident said...

Hey Anon, whats up with degrading poor old wheelbarrows? I wanna know how someone like Jones gets to be where he is with such ideas that have bombed all over the world?

His boss, Overland knows it doesn't work and is open to more sensible policies like decriminalisation and even legalisation. It's time for a new deputy commissioner who isn't so stubborn and closed minded to the stack of proof that he is wrong.They say dinosaurs can't read.

Thinking CAP said...

Hello! Thanks for the shout-out.

My general sense is people who like to fight see everything as an opportunity to fight.

Also, people who oversimplify the world in to "good guys" and "bad guys" also grossly oversimplify things with regard to drugs, and since they've forced drugs into the black market, there is plenty of associations (vs. causations) they can point to, which seem to support their infantile way of thinking.

Their ignorance is on display in every house and in nearly every store. Our medicine cabinets are filled with drugs which we use to self-medicate; and truth be told, many of us eat foods to do the same.

"… illegal drugs cause serious mental and physical damage to many Victorian families." Clearly he should add "can" in between "drugs" and "cause." Not all drugs or drug users fall in that category.

However, we all know that prohibition (and the lies it is based on, and the lies it spreads) cause FAR MORE "serious mental and physical damage."

That is the irony, just like in olden times when the religious leaders of Jesus' day (and even long before he showed up) crushed him, lied about him, and ultimately killed him. This is what we have today as well, the Holier-Than-Thou-Congregations give lip-service to God, yet do the opposite of what God wants.

Terry Wright said...

Thanks everyone for your comments.

it seems that some people do see through Ken Jones and co.

It's especially good to hear from Thinking Cap who is from Christians Against Prohibition. Although I'm not religious at all, this is one group who I fully support. This group represents what Christianity should be about and I take my hat off to them.

Anonymous said...

The quality of our state government is disheartening and disappointing. Both of the major parties allowed for the Operational Response Unit to enter policing & this is apparently a non-issue. I never hear about it but I see it in action every day. Arresting impoverished drug users is doing what exactly?

I guess I shouldn't be shocked by the invisibility of drug users in Footscray given it is just a rail-road.

Terry Wright said...

Thanks Anon.

Yes, arresting impoverished drug users is futile. Check out the comments from RV for the All Drugs Are Not The Same article.