Pubdate: 20 Nov, 1999
Source: Canberra Times (Australia)
Authors: Brian McConnell


CAN I be excused for thinking that the Australian Federal Police 
Association would uphold the law no matter how many lives it costs? 
('Injecting rooms not safe from police', CT, November 17, p.3) This 
attitude is not a constructive approach to this serious problem. Police 
already have a number of discretions, for which there has been no outcry 
from the union that they must 'uphold the law'.

A significant discretion is that police not attend ambulance overdose 
call-outs. The death of my son in 1992 before the adoption of this policy 
can be directly attributed to police attending when the ambulance was called.

This new policy, police management rightly claim, contributes to saving 
lives. The police union has never opposed that policy, nor has it ever 
opposed the needle-exchange program on the same basis as it now opposes 
safe-injecting rooms.

Police have it within their power to sabotage these discretions but to 
their credit generally do not do so.

If the police consistently harass the safe-injecting room and its users, 
forcing them to return to the back alleys, will they accept responsibility 
for the inevitable tragedies that follow?

As the Federal Court said (CT, November 13, p.1), 'The community no longer 
demands that heroin users be punished as such, and there is an emerging, if 
not predominant, community attitude that the socially adverse effects of 
heroin use are best met by a response in the public-health system.'

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