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Cocaine, then crime, then cops!

by Ned Wicker

A City of Milwaukee police officer stood outside a room in an intensive care unit. He seemed bored, so I offered him a cup of coffee, which he gladly accepted. Of course I tried to make a little small talk, just to attempt expressing my appreciation and respect for what he does.

Cleverly, I commented that his “babysitting” duty could not have been very rewarding. He gave a little laugh, but he was enjoying the coffee more than the joke. “I’ve seen this so many times,” he started to explain. “They get hooked on drugs, then they get lost in the haze and they do stupid things. This guy got mad at somebody and set a building on fire. He was high cocaine and he burned himself. I don’t know why they do it. I’m sure he had some kind of a reason.”

Drugs are really out of control!

So often offenders are brought into the Emergency Department for the initial round of care, and then they’re transferred to the intensive care unit for more treatment. Often the “police hold” is for an attempted suicide, or a drug overdose, but this was the first person I’ve seen in a while on hold after being caught, or in this case rescued, from a criminal act. We tend to forget sometimes how really out of control some things are.

Seeing the “police hold” is not all that uncommon in a large, urban area, but if one were to multiply that by the number of hospitals around and try to count up the loss of law enforcement man hours, I think the figure would be staggering. Sure, it all comes with the territory, but having a police officer watching a hospital room seems such a waste of talent. Naturally, if you remove the officer the patient will bolt. But when he’s hooked to an IV, in a hospital gown, and it’s five below outside, where’s he going?

Society pays an enormous price for people abusing drugs and committing crimes. If this guy in the ICU is any kind of indicator, you can see the financial resources it takes to guard the criminal, while the taxpayers also foot the bill for the ICU costs. It isn’t cheap. The cop wasn’t complaining. It’s warm, there’s plenty of coffee and always somebody to talk to, but for the community it’s a huge financial burden.

Addict was clueless!

What was most concerning, however, was the completely clueless, carefree attitude of the patient himself. He knew he suffered a medical emergency by his own hand, he knew that after he was released he was going to jail, so the whole experience in the ICU was like having a couple of days in a hotel room. He had no remorse for his actions, other than his physical suffering.

However, in his addicted condition, I don’t truly think he was capable of much more than that. As I spoke to him and heard his story, I began to wonder once again about forcing him into treatment rather than forcing him into a long jail term.

Even if somebody dries out, gets clean, however you want to put it, without treatment and a good recovery program, he’s just going to go back to what he knows. He’s going to cost the taxpayers even more money. His life will not change. There will be no transformation from drug addict to responsible citizen. It’s all a waste. It’s an endless cycle.

Too many tax dollars being spent on drug addicts!

Call me a bleeding heart liberal, but I’m tired of tax dollars going to perpetuating his addiction. People have to rebuild their lives through a change of heart and a change of routine. Recovery programs are designed to help in that process, but so few ever find their way to the right path.

People have the right to refuse treatment in this country, but once they have run afoul of the law, be it a minor offense or a felony; the people have the right to demand treatment. By breaking the law, we forfeit our rights. Therefore, families who suffer through the addiction just like the addict should have the right to commit the addict to treatment.

The first sentence should be treatment, not jail. Put some teeth into it. If a person refuses, or doesn’t successfully complete a rigid treatment program, then the jail sentence that follows it should hurt.

Police offers guarding addicts in hospital ICUs are not a good use of taxpayer dollars. But we see them all the time!

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