Side Event: Police and Drug Treatment Together: The Global Emergence of Deflection as a Humanitarian Crime Reduction Approach to Drugs

Organized by the Chicago T.A.S.C. Inc. with the support of the Council of Europe – Pompidou Group, the Knowmad Institut gemeinnützige UG (haftungsbeschränkt), the Police, Treatment, and Community Collaborative and the Villa Maraini Foundation

This CND Side Event will present a newly emerging global field of practice called “deflection”, which sits at the nexus of policing, drug treatment, recovery, and local community.

Deflection leverages the hundreds of millions of contacts that law enforcement have globally, as well as in your own community with people who use drugs but might otherwise 1) be arrested, or 2) not be arrested, but without any action taken to address their drug use that caused contact with the police in the first place. Deflection is an early, preventative, “upstream” approach that seeks to prevent possible future criminal conduct, death, or unrelenting drug use by treating addiction. In this way, deflection is an operational humanitarian approach to both crime reduction and recovery.

Objectives of this event are:

  • Increase awareness of the practice and purpose of deflection as an emerging global movement
  • Describe the roles of police, social actors, treatment, and community in creating deflection sites
  • Describe how deflection fits into a humanitarian approach to people who use drugs
  • Demonstrate that deflection is beneficial to reducing crime and keeping families and children together

(Blogging started at 1.30pm CET) –

Dr Massimo Barra, Chairman of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Partnership on Substance Abuse: (…)

Jac A. Charlier, The Police, Treatment and Community Collaborative TASC’s Center for Health and Justice, Executive Director (USA): Recovery from drug use means zero drug related crime  – deflection creates the missing bridge to reduced arrests. Bridge of deflection – dealing with people in minutes and hours – right hand side is drug treatment. We need to close the gap. Without that, we have no deflection. Deflection reduces social burden.

Dr Thomas Kattau, Deputy Executive Secretary, Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe: Drug control policies include law enforcement and police. Over the last 40 years – perspectives have changed. This has prompted a review of previous stakeholders. We have to assess in what direction policies have to be recast. The problems related to drugs look quite different to the past. They are not primarily big drug seizures and big drug deals. Why is the police one of the most important players in this game – many times, they are the first responders. The first response must be to save lives, not look for drugs. We are now looking for new concepts, and this is now being discussed on the policy level. The objectives must be on equal footing. The police can play a significant role in the new objectives, and in saving lives. In essence, this is what is happening, when deflection occurs. The objective is to help people live drug and crime free. We need to cast our eyes wider than the emergency situation. Drug prevention through school programs has not been the most effective means. Some problems emerge from violence at home – and this can lead to partnerships between police and social work. The role of police in public health dominated drug policies – it’s not only harm reduction, but all the associated situations where police can bring about the intervention. The recast of the role of police in public health drug policies is something that the Pompidou Group is working on at the moment.

Colonel Refilwe Matlamela, Section Commander for Substance Abuse Programme, South Africa Police Services (SAPS): South African Police Service doesn’t have deflection law yet, but we are moving there – we mainly focus on supply reduction and drug trafficking and substance abuse cases. South African Drug Masterplan on demand reduction and. We think South African police service, we are working with the University of Pretoria to implement demand and harm reduction programs. South African National Police Commissioner launched community dialogues in 2018 with people who use drugs. Working with Department of Social Development and Department of Health to introduce interventions – to reduce and prevent overdoses and head towards recovery support. Criminal justice system is now moving away from criminalisation to treatment. We need to shift to polices that are rights- and harm-reduction-based.

Rev. Martin Diaz, CEO Knowmad Institut – European Institute for Multidisciplinary Studies on Human Rights and Science (El Salvador/Germany): Multiple studies document the limitations of community experiences of deflection. In violent societies, experience shows that awareness raising to specific populations works – an example exists in LGBTI/trans communities. Protocols and spaces – access to community spaces and services. Cooperation between agencies can promote empowerment of women and could act as an example for us. Stigmatisation exists and there is a strong need to address this. Actors who promote violence and crime. Communities can build empowerment with deflection. Inequalities can be addressed by deflection, in combination with harm reduction strategies. Deflection as a harm reduction measure needs to be community-led. The process of deflection is limited when not combined with harm reduction. In Latin America, there is an increase in violent crime and insecurity. COVID has affected the global market of amphetamines, increasingly common with the darknet. Social media can lead to the development of new measures to retain human dignity. Focusing law enforcement resources to deflection can relieve pressure on cybermarkets and promote responsible use at home, and help focus on real risks. Deflection practices must be implemented in the digital world.

Nadia Badran, Executive Director of SIDC Association and Member of the Regional Experts Group (REG) of MENHARA (Lebanon): 2013 – regional consultations at MENHARA conference with law enforcement and other police members, with people living with HIV and other key affected populations during their detention and incarceration. With women who use drugs and their experience with police. 2019 Beirut – third regional consultation – a declaration was done with 8 other regional countries, along with law enforcement agencies, UN agencies and civil society. How can we create a common understanding and agreement that is strategic for human rights and HIV – training manual for police to support the presence of prisoners and how the services could be more applicable to human rights. Manual circulated during COVID to engage police officers in region to make prison environment less stigmatised and discriminating. Efforts should continue in this regard.

Natasa Boskova, DPNSEE Drug Policy Network East Europe – HOPS, Legal Advisor (North Macedonia): Actions taken to change police attitudes towards people who use drugs. Harm reduction services developed with Ministry of Health, but an inconsistent approach with Ministry of Interior. 2017 memorandum with police officers and civil society representatives with legal backgrounds. Includes info on legal framework and includes bad examples of cases. Good examples of collaboration between harm reduction and police, and efforts to help people who use drugs find services in their community. Process increased police understanding of harm reduction services. Module introduced into training for all police officers – training was postponed in COVID.

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