This week Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom, who is responsible for law enforcement in North Wales, made a strong statement against the aggressive anti-drug stance of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, stating that the war on drugs in the UK is “irrational, illogical, immoral and hypocritical" and that "most importantly it doesn’t work.”
Brunstrom went further to call for the legalization of all drugs, including cocaine and heroin, in a report submitted to the North Wales Police Authority on Monday, where he declared that, "If policy on drugs is in future to be pragmatic not moralistic, driven by ethics not dogma, then the current prohibitionist stance will have to be swept away as both unworkable and immoral."
Brunstrom has been a controversial but popular figure who has often challenged government law enforcement assumptions, but on this issue he has received a surprisingly positive reception. The NWPA praised his report and agreed to back Brunstrom's call for radical overhaul of drug laws. While not embracing his call for full legalization they endorsed the idea of reclassifying drugs including alcohol and tobacco and decriminalizing most drugs under the new classification system.
Brunstrom believes in dealing with drugs by attacking the producers and criminals financially and that the most effective way to do that is to reduce profits through legalization. He said, “What better than to cut their profits, put them out of business? We have handed over the production, control and supply of the entire thing to active criminals. How can that possibly be a good outcome of government policy?”
Government officials were quick to discount Brunstrom's ideas before his report had even been submitted, with Vernon Coaker of the Home Office insisting that a police crackdown was the only way to deal with Britain's problems with drugs and drug-related crimes.
Brunstrom's recommendations come in the context of reports that last year violent crime in Scotland increased by 40%, largely driven by alcohol abuse, part of a UK-wide trend of increasing alcoholism. What's more, the cost of the war on drugs has mounted to £13 billion a year and the number of people incarcerated for drug crimes has risen 100% in the last decade.
To Brunstrom the problems seem obvious. Alcohol and tobacco are growing problems which are being neglected, while resources are being wasted in a war on other drugs which serves mostly to enrich drug producers, dealers, and organized crime.
The question which remains unanswered is whether anyone in government will listen, even when the cry from reform comes from a top law enforcement official.