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Why Police Should Support Harm Reduction for People Who Use Drugs, Part II of II

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A conversation with Chief Mark Spawn (Ret.) of the Fulton Police Department in New YorkPart II of II
Read Part I Here.


Mikayla Hellwich: If politics were not a concern, describe how you would, as Chief, train your officers to engage people with drug addictions. This includes a) people who’ve overdosed, b) people who are found with illegal drugs, and c) people who approach an officer because they need help.

Chief Spawn: I would make sure my officers were trained to use Narcan (editor’s note: Narcan is the brand name of Naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal drug) which is currently carried by many police officers in New York State and in other parts of the U.S. In the early days after Narcan was deployed in the field, when there was a life-saving rescue, there was always a news headline. It’s now happening with such regularity that it no longer makes news. The upside is that police have been trained to respond effectively to an overdose, but it’s also disheartening because it shows how wid…

Why Police Should Support Harm Reduction for People Who Use Drugs, Part I

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A conversation with Chief Mark Spawn (Ret.) of the Fulton Police Department in New York.Part I of II
Mikayla Hellwich: How do you personally define harm reduction? What does it mean to you? 
Chief Mark Spawn (Ret.)
- Any initiative or program that lessen risks in public health and safety. This includes needle exchanges and supervised injection facilities or “SIFs,” [also called supervised consumption spaces, or SCSs] to name a few. 


What is the biggest misconception about people with drug addictions? One of the biggest misconceptions is the image people have - the person who’s down on his luck, maybe a homeless person with a criminal record. The reality is that addiction affects men and women of all races, socioeconomic statuses, people in rural and urban areas. It cuts across all demographics.


What role does stigma play in this misconception? It’s the negative stigma of someone being a “drug addict” that can prevent the person from seeking help or even talking to their families about i…

HOMELESSNESS CAN'T BE SOLVED WITH FINES AND ARRESTS

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By John Tharp and Maria Foscarinis
Originally published by Huffington Post on May 31st, 2018

When San Diego resident Gerald Stark’s rent increased and he couldn’t afford another apartment, the retired union pipefitter moved into his RV. But because he lacked an address, San Diego law made it almost impossible for him to park his RV legally, and it was not long before the city confiscated it, leaving him with no other place to live but the streets. There, he was ticketed for violating another law prohibiting sleeping in public. Faced with thousands of dollars in fines and fees he was unable to pay, Stark lived every day in fear of being arrested — for simply trying to survive.

He is not alone. As rents and housing costs skyrocket in cities across the country — there isn’t a single county in the United States where you can afford to rent a two-bedroom market-rate apartment working a full-time, minimum-wage job — many of our neighbors are just one health emergency, car repair or missed payc…

Honoring Police Includes Acknowledging Systemic Reform Is Needed

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Chief Norm Stamper (Ret.), Seattle Police Department
Published May 7th, 2018
Source: American Civil Liberties Union Blog

During the third week of May, tens of thousands of cops from across the nation will gather in Washington, D.C., for “Police Week” and its national memorial services, a solemn tradition that dates back to the Kennedy administration. As a former law enforcement officer, I know the importance of this week.




I also know that this is an ideal time to commit to improving the institution from within as well as from without. There is no better time to recognize and appreciate our courageous officers — and make their work safer, more satisfying, and, ultimately, more legitimate in the eyes of the people.

Twenty-three years ago, as Seattle’s police chief, I traveled to our nation’s capital to join the family of a gifted, compassionate police officer, Antonio Terry. On June 4, 1994, Detective Terry was shot dead by a motorist he had stopped to assist. Police Week is meant to honor t…

Sexual Assault & Violence Response Training: What Police Can Do Better

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Last week, I had a wonderful conversation with retired detective Justin Boardman from Salt Lake City, Utah. After retiring from police work, he started training police officers across the country in how to approach domestic violence and sexual assault investigations by understanding the neurobiology of trauma. I dug deeper into the problems with our current approach to violent crime investigations and what police can do to better support crime survivors. ~Mikayla Hellwich
Mikayla Hellwich: So give me your elevator pitch – what do your trainings cover?


Justin Boardman: Our training approach is victim-centered, suspect focused. They’re usually about sexual assault and domestic violence and how police officers and their departments can conduct those investigations with the victim at the forefront. A person who undergoes trauma, especially in the time immediately after the event, will communicate and recall details in a counterintuitive way. Police will often ask the wrong questions and in …

U.S. Incarceration Rate Hits Two-Decade Low

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Ending the cash bail system and expanding access to re-entry services will continue the trend
The U.S. incarceration rate has hit a 20-year low. That’s according to a new report from Pew Charitable Trusts, which analyzed the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). In 2016, about 1 in 116 U.S. adults were behind bars. That’s down from the peak rate of 1 in 100 locked up in 2006.


There are a few factors behind this steady decline, including historically low crime rates, but there’s more to the story. 
Public attitudes toward crime and sentencing have shifted dramatically since the War on Drugs hit peak intensity in the 1980s and 90s. At the time, politicians on the left and right were hastily passing harsher mandatory minimum sentences. These laws left judges with limited power to order community service or other, less punitive consequences when appropriate. Mandatory minimums for drug and other crimes contributed to the explosive incarceration rates that criminal jus…

Stephon Clark shooting needs a local independent investigation

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Sacramento DA should independently investigate Stephon Clark’s death
 By Neill Franklin and Stephen Downing
Published on 5.10.18 by the Sacramento News & Review
As head law enforcement officer for Sacramento County, District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert is charged with leading her jurisdiction through difficult and sometimes tragic situations. But rather than leading, Schubert is taking a backseat. She recently announced her office’s investigation into the shooting of Stephon Clark would not begin until the Sacramento Police Department concludes its internal investigation. What’s worse, she has indicated that the SPD will lead the investigation. They will decide who is worth talking to, and who is not. They will conduct the interviews with the witnesses, frame the questions and thus choose whose voices are heard. What’s more, they will question the officers involved, with the district attorney serving as no more than a passive observer.

Schubert's failure to impartially investi…