Drug Investigations and Patrol Officer

Drug investigation is one of the most tricky and risky problems that a patrol officer may face. A patrol officer is not only required to be completely aware of all the drugs that he/she may encounter but should also possess keen observation skills. A patrol officer should be able to determine drug use, smuggling, and distribution with his/her sound judgment, not only in a specific area like roadways but also in the whole community. A patrol officer has to be careful about vehicle concealment locations and vehicle assessment techniques. He should also be able to find out the probable cause for vehicle stops. (Public Agency Training Council, n.d.)

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Patrol officers play a very important role in deterring street crimes and assisting the citizens. They watch out for suspicious activities and report them to the establishment. They also investigate the criminal activities and gather evidence. Patrol officers also help in preparing cases for court and sometimes also appear in the court to present proofs or as a witness.

According to the effective national drug control strategy, the drug control investigations meant the seizure of drugs and imprisonment of offenders primarily. Though there have been too many arrests, incarcerations, and seizures, the overall situation in the US worsened. Drug overdose deaths increased by 540% from 1980. Particular diseases like AIDS and hepatitis have spread phenomenally. Adolescent drug use and emergency room visits also kept increasing. To deal with this situation before it got completely out of hands, there Effective National Drug Control Strategy introduced policies that concentrated more on public health.

In June 1996, the US had 5.5 million people of its population under some control, and 1.7 million are actually behind bars. These numbers have increased roughly by 80%, mainly due to drug convictions. Simultaneously, there has been just as drastic an increase in the number of deaths due to overdose. This situation was a mere vicious cycle, which not only affected the lives of people accused or imprisoned but also caused financial and psychological damage to people close to them. It also afflicted some racial groups more than the others, like the blacks, causing different reactions in society.

The US government policy has always been focusing on preventing children from having access to illegal drugs and substances. According to a survey conducted in 1975, 87% of youth found it very easy to obtain marijuana. When the same survey was conducted in 2008 after millions of arrests, 89.6% of the youth thought that access to marijuana was very easy. The 1992 federal survey also shows a rise in adolescent drug use.

The federal surveys show that more than half the high school goers in the USA are drug criminals. The assumption that arresting the juveniles would stop them from accessing what they want is, by far, very unrealistic. This policy also has many loopholes as it mainly relies on a random processes like locker checks, drug-sniffing dogs, and awareness campaigns on media to educate people about this issue. A more strategic, sophisticated, and effective policy was designed later that has yielded better results.

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Data provided by the ONDCP (Office of National Drug Control Policy) in 1999 states that in spite of huge investments in snuggling control, border patrols, and involvement of the Department of Defense, the US has failed to reduce drug supply and increase its costs. The creation of artificially high drug prices has motivated producers to produce more, giving them great profit margins, thus creating economies of scale. The lowered average cost of production means that companies are making gigantic profits even when selling at a very low retail price. (Zeese and Lewin, n.d.)

The easy availability, low prices, and increased purity of drugs have added significantly to health problems. On March 1st, 2008, the US government released its new National Drug Control Strategy, which focuses on public health approaches, investing in children/youth, and encountering the root cause of this problem by addressing fundamental economic and social problems.

The new National Drug Control Strategy includes the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, which is going to address the issue of prescription drug diversion. Television, print media, and the Internet are being used for advertising that would compel parents and adults to protect today’s vulnerable youth against drug abuse. Though the use of illicit drugs by the youth has decreased in recent years, prescription drug abuse is increasingly becoming an area of concern. Parents need to educate, monitor, and set strict rules for their children regarding the use of prescription drugs. This new strategy aims at eradication of drug abuse from the root; therefore, it focuses in-depth on how people get involved in drug abuse. It would be impossible to effectively address this problem without taking into account the social and economic problems prevailing in a society. Non-punitive random drug testing is going to be done at schools and workplaces, which is more likely to motivate people to refrain from drug abuse. (ONDCP Fact Sheet: 2008 National Drug Control Strategy, 2008).

A lot of health professionals and deceitful patients are trying to divert strong and potentially habit-forming drugs from the legal, medical channels. This is in order to be able to access pharmaceuticals on one’s choice. The incidents of theft and burglaries of pharmaceuticals have risen significantly over the last few years, as stated in a news report published in May 2008 that 25 million doses of generally abused drugs were stolen in 2007. Internet pharmacies have also added to this problem because of inadequate dealing procedures. They do not ask for important details before shipping an order, which makes monitoring the use of these drugs even more difficult.

The state Atty. The General of California plans to enhance the state supervising system so that doctors and health professionals may be able to analyze and investigate their patients’ histories. This would control the number of prescriptions for potentially hazardous drugs. This step was taken after an alarmingly high, that is 34 million, prescriptions for narcotics and several other controlled drugs were reported to have been issued last year.

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According to a recent survey conducted by the US federal government, 7 million US citizens were involved in the non-medical use of pharmaceutical drugs in 2006, as compared to 6 million in 2004. Prescription drug abuse is increasing with such steadiness that local law enforcement personnel and patrol officers are often reported to have found it on streets like other narcotics. As a measure of precaution, the state medical board annually trains many doctors in order to avoid improper prescriptions and also to refrain from drug abuse themselves.

Increasing occurrences of fraud and forgery have added to the misery. There have been incidents of nurses and other health professionals misusing their authority to obtain narcotics. Investigations of such cases are complicated and take a very long time. There have also been cases of people claiming to be working for doctors or being health professionals themselves asking for prescriptions. In such situations, it is extremely risky to believe the person without any proof of identification. Since 2003, the state’s health program for poor people called Medi-Cal has carried out around 500 drug diversion investigations. Medi-Cal has been facing problems regarding patients consulting several doctors at the same time. Therefore, it is necessary that doctors and pharmacists be facilitated by the database, which is controlled by the office of attorney general. This would help doctors get detailed information about the patients’ prescription history. Expediting this process can prevent drug diversion to a great extent. In this way, legitimate patients would also be able to get medicine when needed. (Reiterman, 2008).

Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Office of Diversion Control deals with the problem of diversion of pharmaceuticals. Any manufacturers, distributors, pharmacies, and doctors who are authorized to fill prescriptions are required under federal law to register with the DEA. This helps in regulating drug security as it would be easier to hold people accountable on the basis of records. It is DEA’s duty to make sure that drugs are readily available to people who need them for medical purposes. DEA deals with all kinds of problems ranging from falsification of orders to cover up illegal sales by the executives to stolen stock by the employees, forged prescriptions to sales of prescriptions to drug abusers and dealers, and armed robberies. However, the illicit activities of pharmacists are the most problematic. (DAE Office of Diversion Control, 2008).

The new US strategy also involves working on curing and recovery of drug users. It encourages efficient programs to improve the treatment process. It aims at identifying drug users who are ignorant about the hazards posed by drug use to their health and those susceptible to substance abuse disorders. Through the development and extension of public health settings, especially in those sectors of society that have limited resources, this program is going to be made accessible to everyone.

Disruption of the market for illegal drugs is another major target that this strategy aims to achieve. This involves identifying and dismantling the drug trafficking organizations, seizure of methamphetamine labs and marijuana grow houses, closure of open-air drug markets, and dealing with the issue of the illicit drugs trade. International collaboration in law enforcement is going to play an essential part in discomposing the illegal drug trade; therefore, the US has developed strategic outlines to work towards this goal, hand in hand with Mexico, Columbia, Afghanistan, and other critical associates in the international community. DEA looks after the transactions and policies regarding international drug diversion. It also has the authority to issue export and import permits. (ONDCP Fact Sheet: 2008 National Drug Control Strategy, 2008).

Domestic interdiction means interception of illegal transport of drugs prior to their sales. Highway interdiction or interdiction in airports, trains, or at many other places is done through various techniques that suit it best. When doing highway interdiction, an officer looks for certain traits and behavioral patterns displayed by the narcotics couriers when transporting. Mr. Andrew Hawkes, who has been a very successful highway interdiction officer, has written a book called “Secrets of Successful Highway Drug Interdiction.” In this book, he has discussed numerous behaviors that an officer should watch out for when he is suspicious. For instance, if the passengers in a vehicle do not know each other’s names, that could be a strong indicator of drug trafficking. However, this will depend on other circumstances too. Therefore, highway interdiction officers need to stay assertive and be able to make cautious discretions at all times. A lot of times, it is presumed that drug traffickers would try to speed. However, most successful highway officers say that drug haulers do not speed. He has also included tips relating to the searching of vehicles in question. One of the points that he discussed is to make sure that the A/C unit is turned on and the vents blow air. If not, this could mean that car is loaded with narcotics. However, there are no real hard and fast rules about it. An officer should try to think like a drug trafficker to be more successful at his job. (Hawkes, 2008).

Sometimes officers use the knock-and-talk technique, which means asking for consent to interrogate or to search. In this case, one is never sure of what is going to happen because it depends on the reaction of the suspect. Therefore, it is very important that before making any move, officers should try to collect maximum possible knowledge about the suspect, for instance, warrant checks, driver license check, the kind of narcotics he/she is suspected of possessing, violent tendencies, and the criminal history. (Steffen and Candelaria, 2002).

Hotels, airlines, trains, rented vehicles, commercial bus services, storage facilities, postal services, and commercial parcel services are often used by drug traffickers. Sometimes governments hold business watch programs as a part of their interdiction strategies, which require all these different businesses to watch for any suspicious behaviors and report them to the authority. The use of drug canines is also very common in the interdiction process. These are dogs specially trained for narcotics inspection. There are different companies and drug dog handlers who offer K-9 services. (Steffen and Candelaria, 2002).

References

Andrew Hawkes, “So You Want to Find the Mother Load?” 2008. Web.

DAE Diversion Control Program- Program Description, 2008. Web.

Drug Investigation for Uniform Patrol Officers, 2008. Web.

Drugstory – Drug Trafficking – Interdiction, 2008. Web.

George S Steffen, Samuel M Candelaria, Domestic Drug Interdiction, CRC Press, 2002.

Kevin B. Zeese and Paul M. Lewin, The Need for a New Model of Drug Control, 2008. Web.

ONDCP Fact Sheet: 2008 National Drug Control Strategy. Web.

Tim Reiterman, Prescription drugs diverted, Los Angeles Times, 2008. Web.

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