Drug war doesn’t work? Who’d’a thunk it?

The BBC reports:

The UK Drug Policy Commission said despite the large sums of money spent tackling the problem, traditional police tactics were not working.

Uh, yep.

Tim McSweeney, one of the report’s authors, said: “We were struck by just how little evidence there is to show that the hundreds of millions of pounds spent on UK enforcement each year has made a sustainable impact.”
Former police chief constable David Blakey, of the UK Drug Policy Commission, said enforcement agencies tended to be judged by the amount they had managed to capture.
“This is a pity as it is very difficult to show that increasing drug seizures actually leads to less drug-related harm,” he added. […]
Brian Paddick, a former deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, told Today part of the problem was the performance targets set for police forces.
“There is no incentive at the moment for chief constables to tackle drug crime. All the performance indicators against which police forces are measured are based on reduction of acquisitive crime.”

This is actually pretty impressive to hear in major media outlet. And the Drug Policy Commission report has some useful data.
Of course, we already know this. It’s been obvious as the hand in front of your face (although the drug warriors won’t acknowledge it).
It’s very nice to hear them talk about the fact that police are using the wrong benchmarks for determining effectiveness. Number of arrests and number of seizures really means nothing. That’s something we need to be better at doing — pressuring for a different kind of accountability (although it won’t be easy).
The UK study went even further:

It went so far as to warn that police operations could have a negative effect on the problem.
They could threaten public safety and health by “altering the drug users’ behaviour and potentially√° setting up violent drug gang conflicts as police move dealers from one area to another”, said our correspondent.

So how does the government respond to that?

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The government agrees that enforcement in isolation is not effective.”

Translation: We’ll keep doing it anyway, but by claiming (as we have been all along) that we’re doing it in conjunction with other efforts, it’ll magically make it all better, without us having to actually do anything about our failure.
(We here the same kind of thing from the ONDCP sometimes — usually they say that they’re working on a “balanced” program of enforcement and other methods.)
Wait. Wait. Yes, here it is, later in the article…

The Home Office said seizures were only part of the government’s approach, with intervention programmes getting 1,000 offenders into drug treatment each week.
“Many of the report’s recommendations are already being implemented,” the spokesperson added.
“Our drugs strategy encompasses enforcement, prevention, education and treatment.”

Ah, I feel so much better. They’re not just spending millions of pounds on a dangerous policy that doesn’t work and has negative consequences, but they’re doing other things as well. That makes it all good.

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