Sunday, October 23, 2016

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Good Cop, Bad War

Mick Hall @ Organized Rage through the prism of the a book review by Martin Powell discusses the war on drugs and argues that:

To Continue With The War Against Drugs Is Insane


Below, Martin Powell,  Head of Campaigns and Communications at the drugs charity Transform Drug Policy Foundation reviews a new book by Neil Woods, who worked for 13 years as a police officer destroying people's lives while working undercover targeting street addicts addicts and mainly low level dealers, who were often one and the same. Having said this that was not what Neil first set out to do. He genuinely believed by taking part in the war on drugs he was saving peoples lives and making our streets safe.

I watched George Galloway interviewing Woods at the weekend on his RT Sputnik show and I have to admit Woods came out of the interview the better man.

Unlike Galloway, Woods clearly now understands the shere stupidity of the so called war on drugs, whereas George's ignorance on this subject was shocking. He seems to have based much of his knowledge about this subject on an afternoon walk around the centre of Vancouver where he said the sight of drug addicts, needles, and other drugs paraphernalia on the ground appalled him. And he came away believing addicts were beyond help, thus the only alternative is to stop the inflow of narcotics by stepping up the war on drugs.

When Woods told George the war on drugs have been an abject failure he refused to accept it and said it's because governments have not gone in hard enough, claiming cuts to the Border Agency allowed illicit drugs to flood into the UK. Nevermind they were flooding into the UK long before the latest round of cuts were made. Why he would say such a stupid thing when US high security prisons are overflowing with the victims of the war on drugs as are the UK's.  Over half of all UK prisoners (55%) committed offences connected to their drug taking and their need for money to buy drugs.

48% of women prisoners were in jail for buying drugs for someone else, a partner, son, daughter or grandchild. Over 81% of women in prison are there for non violent offences a majority connected with drugs.

We have recently had a glimpse of where Galloways stance on hardening the war on illicit drugs ends. It's with the Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte acting as judge, jury and executioner and ordering his special police to murder thousands of addicts and dealers.

The war on drugs is a war on our own people and the following quote from Albert Einstein about the definition of political insanity fits it perfectly: "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

It's to Neil Woods credit that after doing the same thing over and again he finally, after 13 wasted years, realised the War on Drugs was a total failure and must cease immediately to be replaced with a system of legalising and regulating all illicit drugs and treating addicts for their addiction properly and not as happens today as if they are some kind of social pariah.

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Martin Powell Review of Good Cop Bad Cop

Neil Woods on the left while destroying peoples lives when working as an undercover policeman targeting street addicts-MH
The first thing to say about Good Cop, Bad War is that although yes, it is a savage and powerful attack on the government’s approach to drugs by one of the country’s most experienced undercover cops, it is also a bloody good read that I’d recommend to anyone.

Written in short, punchy journalistic-style sentences it reads like a (real-life) crime-thriller, as Neil Woods trawls the streetlife and criminal underworld of England. Each of the first 15 chapters tell a different - sometimes hilarious, sometimes terrifying, often moving tale - of his undercover operations in a different town or city (perhaps some of you are there in the background in a club in Nottingham, a pub in Brighton...?). He paints stark and believable pictures of the people he was duping, the perilous edge he walked along - threatened with knives and swords, seeing savage beatings and stabbings, endless seedy street injecting, and the drugs he took himself to avoid being exposed - and killed.

Woven through it is a startlingly personal and honest description of how his 14 year-immersion in a world peopled by the desperate, damaged and downright dangerous ran parallel with the unravelling of his homelife. This personal strand sat a little uneasily with me at first, but in the end it is a vital part of the story of how he moved from being a leading figure in undercover drugs policing (even training other officers) to one of the most trenchant critics both of treating drug use as a criminal issue, and of our government’s refusal to legally regulate drug supply.

That said, overall, he is hugely supportive of the police as a body, and heaps praise on many individuals for their dedication and professionalism. But he also pulls no punches about the way handing the drug trade to criminals through prohibition has stained entire police forces with corruption (I’m not sure Manchester’s constabulary will be buying him many drinks), and he is scathing about some of the units he worked with’s attitude to people they should have been caring for - not viewing as worthless, disposable sub-humans. I’ll bet his publisher’s legal team had a hell of a task figuring out just how far they could push the honesty without incurring an injunction...

He starts out seeing the drug trade as a simple job - put your neck on the line to arrest the bad guys and it’ll all be ok, and heroin users were ‘junkies’ to be tricked (a term that made me wince - but police saying ‘people with drug dependency issues’ wouldn’t work). He is also (even allowing for some dramatisation) brave - most of us would have been a wreck after any one of the operations he describes. He doesn’t pretend to be perfect - he loves the adrenalin rush, and is quite open about enjoying manipulating people. But he moves to seeing some of the people he was mixing with as his friends. And therein lies the rub. Once he (or society as a whole) views people who use drugs as just that - people - and sees that busting them, and even arresting the genuinely vicious people in the gangs supplying them, only makes things worse, it becomes morally untenable to carry on doing what he was doing.

And Neil Woods is clearly a very moral man, who is now taking on the whole criminal justice establishment through the group he Chairs, ‘Law Enforcement Against Prohibition UK’. But don’t be fooled by the fact that he knows his drug policy - he also has a whole suite of incredible stories to tell - and this is the best and most readable book on the reality of the drug war in this country I have ever read.

'Good Cop, Bad War' is available to purchase from Amazon and even better bookstores.

2 comments :

DaithiD said...

I think Johan Hari had a perceptive take on it. Most people see addiction as function of intake, it isnt. Many people go into hospitals and are administered morphine, not everyone develops an addiction to it. Once people get their head around this, and that if drugs were legalised we wouldnt have junky nation, the logic for drug laws would fall away. The thought of heroin on the shelf of a pharmacy, is not less palatable to me, than say,having arms fairs in that country. David Cameron actually held quite progressive views on this subject until something happened on the way to becoming Conservative leader.

DaithiD said...

PS by logic i meant the way its sold to the public by the (abusive nanny) state.