California’s plan to combat meth use? Pay drug users to stop using. What could possibly go wrong?

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CALIFORNIA – According to a report from NPR, officials in California are reportedly exploring a potential wide-scale offering to combat meth addiction: paying individuals to stop using drugs.

While it’s a bit of a rudimentary explanation of what’s being entertained, that’s essentially what the state may pursue to counteract addiction running rampant within the state.

Most would agree that drug addiction – especially in the realm of opioids and methamphetamines – is bad all around: bad for individuals, bad for families, and bad for communities since addiction can often have a domino effect that leads to crimes that cause tangible harm.

And when addiction manifests into the deep negatives like overdoses, property crimes and crimes of violence – which then lead to victims harmed and incarceration, everyone in the state/community is paying in some sense or another.

As such, California is entertaining a novel approach: paying people to not use drugs.

The inspiration reportedly came from a small-scale incentive program run out of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

Billy Lemon, who’d had in the past been arrested on three occasions for selling methamphetamines, was trying to kick the habit and joined a drug treatment program at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

Lemon said that he’d do drug tests three time a week there, for a period of 12 weeks, and every time he tested negative, he’d get roughly $7:

“For somebody who had not had any legitimate money – without committing felonies – that seemed like a cool thing.”

It was an actual part of the drug treatment program, known as contingency management, where individuals suffering from addiction are incentivized with gift cards or some cash to stay clean. At the end of his 12 weeks, Lemon has wound up receiving about $330.

While it wasn’t an obscene amount of cash over a 12 week period, Lemon noted that it wasn’t just about the money – but rather the humanity of the experience during his recovery:

“It was the first opportunity where I was like, I have self-worth, still. It’s buried. This person sees it and is willing to give me seven dollars, just to take care of myself. That was very motivating.”

As the number of overdoses and public health expenses associated with meth and other narcotics continue to rise in California, state officials are exploring legislation and petitioning federal regulators to make contingency management more readily accessible.

As demeaning as the characterization of contingency management may sound, it’s essentially a positive reinforcement technique – akin to coaxing a child into good behavior with allowances or giving a dog a treat when they perform a desired trick.

And apparently, the treatment method works, especially for meth and cocaine addictions, according to studies. At the San Francisco AIDS Foundation alone, a reported 63% of individuals who participated in contingency management in 2019 completely kicked their meth habit, with 19% reducing their usage.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has also had success with contingency management, having treated over 5,600 veterans in the past year with the therapy. Of the approximate 73,000 urine samples collected in the VA’s iteration of the program, an astounding 92% of samples came up negative.

Dominick DePhilippis, a clinical psychologist at the Philadelphia Center for Substance Addiction Treatment & Education, helped launch the VA’s program, explained why addiction can be so difficult defeat:

“Patients often come to treatment ambivalent about change. Why? Because substance use is so seductive. It provides powerful, immediate reinforcement. Whereas recovery, its immediate consequences, are often unpleasant: withdrawal symptoms, a clear-eyed view of the devastated landscape that is one’s life.”

Yet, DePhilippis notes that with contingency management, patients have an alternative gratification they can seek outside of using.

With Lemon’s achieved sobriety, he reinforced that notion found in studies:

“You’re like, ‘Oh! Oh! I can feel good without the daily use of that substance. Let me try and go one more week.’ And then all of a sudden, you’re at 90 days and you’ve actually made a change.”

While there is documented success with the treatment, it hasn’t had its share of criticisms. Some look at the treatment as generally unethical, with some calling it essentially a bribe. A majority of insurance carriers don’t offer coverage for such programs, nor do state Medicaid programs. And in a general sense, federal law prohibits federal funds from going toward contingency management treatments.

Currently, California has a drafted bill that is sitting at Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk, SB 110, that would allow the state’s Medicaid program to pay for contingency management services. Democratic Senator Scott Wiener, who sponsored the bill, was actually taken aback by how the bill received nearly unanimous bipartisan support:

“The Republicans love it. I didn’t think they would, but they actually like it because there’s an abstinence component to it: we pay you money and you abstain from using.”

The bill has been sitting at Governor Newsom’s desk since September 9th, and city officials have urged him to sign it, but there’s no word yet on his position or intention with the bill.

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City issues new policy banning cops from arresting majority of non-felony offenders

(Originally published October 2nd, 2021)

BROOKLYN CENTER, MN – According to a recently unveiled policy that was announced by the Brooklyn Center mayor, police will be compelled to issue a citation and release individuals suspected of most misdemeanors instead of arresting them.

The policy does afford some room for suspects to be arrested for misdemeanor offenses, but those instances would have to be justified under circumstances that the suspect is a threat to property, themselves, or others.

The effort went into effect on September 28th, being aptly dubbed as the “Citation and Release” policy.

Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott announced that this new citation and summons policy, which reportedly stemmed from police reform package that was passed in May, known as the “Daunte Wright and Kobe Dimock-Heisler Community Safety and Violence Prevention Resolution”.

Mayor Elliott stated the following about the new policy to be followed by police in the city:

“Today we are taking another step forward in our collective work to reimagining public safety in Brooklyn Center. This step moves us closer to ensuring there is more equity in how we conduct public safety.”

The noting of “equity” by Mayor Elliott seemed to be an apparent allusion black community members finding themselves involved in police encounters that can lead to arrest. That notion was reinforced by City Council member Marquita Butler, who stated the following about the new policy:

“Many people of color — particularly black men — carry trauma from an experience, or many, when being pulled over by the police. This policy is important and needed to ensure we don’t have any more deaths as a result of minor traffic infractions.”

For those not following Butler’s logic with regard to mentioning “deaths as a result of minor traffic infractions”, one has to keep in mind the police reform package that this new policy stemmed from: the “Daunte Wright and Kobe Dimock-Heisler Community Safety and Violence Prevention Resolution”.

Daunte Wright was the 20-year-old man that was fatally shot following an April traffic stop over an expired registration.

However, it wasn’t the registration matter that escalated into a physical confrontation that resulted in former Officer Kim Potter discharging her firearm that she allegedly mistook for her taser – the struggle ensued because there was an active warrant for Wright’s arrest for a gun charge and fleeing police after missing a court date for that case.

As for Kobe Dimock-Heisler, he was fatally shot by police after his grandfather called 911 because Dimock-Heisler was threatening him with a knife and hammer.

When police responded to the home, Dimock-Heisler became agitated while speaking with police and tried stabbing an officer with a knife, which led to him being stopped.

This case was in no way tied to a traffic stop.

Nonetheless, the new policy, police can only arrest a suspect for felony offenses or if a suspect presents a potential danger to property, themselves, or others. Outside of those circumstances, they’re to be issued a citation for a misdemeanor and left to their business.

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Proposed legislation in police-defunded San Francisco would allow deputies to work retail security

(Originally published September 30th, 2021)

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Legislation is being proposed in San Francisco that would allow for sheriff’s deputies to work as added security at retail stores throughout the city, a measure being entertained with the ongoing organized retail theft that has been taking place in recent months.

As we’ve previously reported here at Law Enforcement Today, retail theft in San Francisco has become a serious problem since the summer of 2021 – instances of retail theft have become all the more brazen and are posing risks of smaller stores possibly closing due to the impact of losses.

In San Francisco, currently only police officers are allowed to obtain overtime by picking up extra shifts posted at retail stores working as security – but proposed legislation would allow for sheriff’s deputies to do the same, if passed.

Supervisor Ahsha Safai, who is proposing the legislation, said that various other retailers refer to San Francisco as being “the epicenter” of retail theft in the country:

“We heard from retailers that San Francisco is the epicenter of organized retail crime in the United States, in their opinion.”

Safai also added that the way his legislation would work would impose no costs to taxpayers, explaining that retail outlets would directly contract with the sheriff’s department to organize compensation for the deputies who’d opt-in for these overtime opportunities:

“Essentially a private entity or an event contacts the city, in this situation, the sheriff department or police department and they would say they are going to pay for these services so they contract with the city.”

Sheriff Paul Miyamoto noted that if the legislation passes, his hope that the mere presence of deputies would make it so would-be offenders wouldn’t even consider attempting to shoplift:

“Our intent isn’t to go out and make a lot of arrests, our intent is to deter people from even thinking about committing the crime in the first place.”

This legislation will be further discussed and voted on by the Board of Supervisors as early as this upcoming November.

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