The "Drug Recognition Evaluator" Program
The Council's Public Safety, Civil Rights and Health committee heard some disturbing testimony yesterday about how the State's "Drug Recognition Evaluator" program is being implemented in downtown Minneapolis. The purpose of this program appears to be to train police officers from outstate areas on what people look and act like when they are under the influence of a given street drug.
A video has been released on independent media that seems to show police officers from non-Minneapolis jurisdictions (Rochester, Mora, etc.) picking up young people from Peavey Plaza and returning them under the influence of marijuana and other drugs. Some of the participants claim that the police actually provided them with the drugs they consumed. One of the people on the video appeared to be close to the age of 18 and reported about how he was recruited, transported, given illegal drugs and asked to used them in a secluded location by government employed public safety employees.
I have asked the Police Chief and Mayor to give me information about the extent of the MPD’s involvement in this. I have also requested that if we had any role in permitting this program to operate in Minneapolis that we suspend that permission. I am deeply disturbed that downtown Minneapolis is being used as a place for outstate cops to find drug users, get them more intoxicated, and then deposit them back on Minneapolis streets. In my opinion, it is not appropriate for Minneapolis to serve as the "drug education zone" for cops from the whole state.
I also find it deeply troubling that this DRE program seems to have targeted the area of the Occupy protests. One of the talking points of those who want to shut down the Occupy protests (supporters of the Johnson resolution both on the Council and in the community) is that Occupy has brought more drug use and intoxicated people to Peavey Plaza. It now seems that law enforcement officers have played a major role in bringing drug use and intoxicated people to the plaza. Was this site chosen with the intent of undermining Occupy's credibility, or is it just a coincidence? Or did the officers participating in the DRE program target Occupy because they view the protesters as a collection of drug users? As I see it, this new information calls into question all of the "evidence" that Occupy has increased crime and livability problems on the plaza, strengthening my opposition to the Johnson resolution.
Two nights ago I had a long conversation with a concerned mother who was very upset because her son had been given free drugs by a police officer when he went out to participate in what he thought would be social action in a public plaza to help improve his community and country. She was shocked to learn from her son later that police gave him illegal drugs and asked him to use them, indicating that it was okay and that it was part of a police program. She expressed concern about her young son and his particular mental capacity to make sound judgments under such conditions. She shared her fears about unknown substances that are often used as additives to marijuana and recalled her own experiences, and those of her families and friends, dealing with substance abuse and addiction. Her trust in the police was broken and she was baffled at how such a thing could ever be condoned by her government. She felt that it was the police's responsibility to help keep her son safe and protect him from harm and consider that by their action the police had put him in harm’s way. She recalled how often those wishing to profit from the sale of drugs often used free samples to help get people "hooked" and almost could not believe that here it was the police giving her son a sample with apparent total disregard for his welfare.
I can appreciate that it is in the interest of the public to have a well-educated police force, able to identify intoxicated people, but there must be better, more ethical, alternative ways to provide them that education. I wonder how health professionals, who also need to be able to make these determinations, learn that information. I wonder if the State Department of Health was consulted and approved of this program before it was implemented. It would be interesting to hear from our own health professionals about this.