While we wait for the verdict, and since the list of comments on Day 10 is getting too long to scroll through, I’ll ask a few questions.

Of course, the consequences of the verdict will be life changing for Ryan Frederick, but what would be the consequences for the citizens of Chesapeake in general of a conviction for Capital, First, or Second Degree Murder?

For a Conviction for Manslaughter?

For an Acquittal?

I would suggest that an acquittal would result in a drastic change in the leadership and procedures in the Chesapeake Police force, but a Murder conviction would be seen as an endorsement of current policy.

I’m not sure a manslaughter conviction would satisfy anybody.

So, have any lessons been learned?

Will anybody but Frederick accept any responsibility?


56 Responses to Consequences

  1. omar says:

    I blame marijuana.

  2. Sailorcurt says:

    Will anybody but Frederick accept any responsibility?


  3. bear says:

    There are only consequences for Ryan Fredrick and the citizens of his community. If convicted all around, the police will pat themselves on the back. If aquitted all around, they will still pat themselves on the back and ebert and his ilk will declare the Jury got it wrong, and a murderer was set free.

    Even only a conviction on the lightest charge, will result in perceived vindication for the cops, the cop-suckers, and the prosecutors.

    It’s tough to win against the bully pulpit…but.. The tide is turning though. Cops are so routinely reviled and despised. The set of people who now longer trust or respect the police or what they stand for, is growing by the day.They have shown themselves to be cowards, liars, or thugs, and those that aren’t cover up for those that are. The tide is turning in a big way. Imagine a RF type character but 5 years ago. He probably would have been “taken care off” in the prison by skeeter and the monkey man, for a sweet pack of diggers from a CO…on the orders of a detective.

    Hey cops, listen up. When you hang around with lying scum, use lying scum to justify your violations of the citizens rights, bust down doors like GI Joe because your mommy didn’t wipe your ass clean enough,

  4. ktc2 says:

    Murder conviction?

    The cops will consider it vindication and a mandate to continue their reckless endangerment.

    Manslaughter conviction?

    The cops will regroup and learn from their “mistakes” about how to better railroad someone.


    Next time the cops will just shot the person, plant evidence and call it a win.

    Yes, I’m cynical. Can you tell?

  5. Carl Drega says:

    Anything except manslaughter or an acquittal will be viewed as complete vindication.

    For anything to change on the police end, we’ll need to see jurors quoted as saying that the cops were wrong. Even then, I doubt much will change soon as a result. This type of change is glacial in pace, but it is coming.

    As bear posted above, knee jerk respect for a police officer’s word is waning. In 30 years, the reputation police have for honest keepers of the peace will be completely ruined because of this drug war.

  6. Michael says:


    Cynical? It might be considered realistic. Police state forever! And you would be right if you also said, it is lucky that Ryan made it to trial. I wonder why they didn’t shoot him!? You know, you deserve the death penalty for owning grow lights! Or getting a box of MJ delivered to your address wrongly! (Like Mayor Cheye Calvo?!) The insanity is going to continue until people realize how much propaganda has been fed to them, that is, absolutely chocked full of misconceptions. The drug warriors are going to have to come down off their high horse, claiming that MJ makes you lazy, though! Three past presidents and Michael Phelps have just put a big hole in that argument!

  7. ktc2 says:

    I’m always amazed how misinformed law enforcement is and members of the judiciary. As part of my work I’ve had to endure endless hours of their prattle in open court and interviews about the “evils” of marijuana.

    They really have drank the kool-aid to the point that that they are immune to logic, reason, scientific study and facts.

    I’ve heard so called “experts” testify under oath to absolute nonsense that’s been thoroughly debunked again and again for years.

    It’s like they’re living in a bubble through which no facts can pass that don’t agree with their own personal “reality”.

  8. ktc2 says:

    You know, that’s it! It’s like a freakin’ religion with them!

  9. mom21kitteh says:

    Even if RF is acquitted, I hold out little hope for substantiative change. After all, look at Atlanta. They said all the right things, created a citizen review board, and swore that things would change. Yet, as soon as the initial hoo-ha had blown over, things seem to have gone back to the status quo and they’re trying to pull all of the teeth they gave their citizen review board.

    I almost fear to say it, lest I be accused of trying to foment revolution, but I think it’s going to take the People seizing gov’t and/or police functions from the political class and the current LEO’s before we’ll get any real change.

  10. ktc2 says:

    I think I’m going to expound on the Drug War/Religion similarities.

    It makes a lot of sense to me. Their propagandists are very much like the “creation scientists”, the “drug warriors” are very much like the crusaders of the middle ages.

    These two things seem to have a lot in common. I think I’ll do some research and produce an essay on the subject.

  11. copswife says:

    I have read your blog for months now, and this time, I have to post. Do you really think things haven’t changed for CPD or their lives haven’t been affected completely by this tragedy? Detective Shivers was not only an exemplary police officer, but he was an amazing person. Trust me when I say, no one is looking for vindication, or to say that what happened that night wasn’t a totally tragedy. Do you really think that those officers didn’t want the past chief to speak up on their behalf? They too are human beings who have hearts and feelings. You all want to villify them for doing their jobs.

    Am I for procedural changes, sure, but that doesn’t mean what they do on a daily basis should be continually second guessed and questioned by people who don’t have the courage or guts to do what they do every day. How dare you condemn them for having to to talk to and associate with criminals and low lives. It’s who they deal with on a daily basis to protect and serve YOU.

    A conviction will not be vindication to us that knew and loved Jarrod, but an ending to a terrible situation that left our friend and brother dead, and widow and children without her husband and their father.

    Let’s let the jury decide the fate of RF. Afterall he has to live with what he’s done for the rest of his life.

  12. Zargon says:

    Please. The only consequence this trial can have for the people of Chesapeake, is to alert them of the kind of world they live in, and only then, if they’re paying attention.

    I’d also like to hallucinate that the CPD would, in the event of an acquittal, say “well gosh, if RF wasn’t at fault then I guess we fvcked up, huh?”. Heck, I’d like to believe the CPD would learn from this event no matter what the jury says. But to get a hallucination that strong I’d have to be taking drugs a lot more potent than the ones RF enjoyed.

    Back to reality, please.

  13. Marty says:

    ‘… what would be the consequences for the citizens of Chesapeake… ‘

    this impacts all of us. Whatever the verdict, it’s going to take more than this trial to initiate real change. hopefully, Mayor Calvo will continue speaking out and become part of a dynamic leadership group (I nominate Balko!) for change. We need a strong push from LEAP, NORML, the ACLU, the Libertarians, etc. Whatever the verdict, I think Ryan Frederick, Cory Maye, Kathryn Johnston, Mayor Calvo, etc can all be poster children for the cause.

    This is much bigger than just Chesapeake.

  14. Price says:

    Bear: Take a pill to relax yourself. Remember their are thousands of police officers, who, everyday go about their jobs acting in a professional manner. Has a police officer ever made a misstake, I say yes. Police should be held to a higher standard, but so should the CEO of a company who has cost people to lose their life savings, careers and houses.

    As for RF, Capital murder will be hard for the jury to considered beyond a reasonable doubt. I do not think every person will be satisfied with the outcome. Two families torn apart, but forever connected.

    As for an Acquittal? No way, RF admitted to taking a bong hit and then mixed it with anxiety pills? Then admitted to “just start” shooting. He was excited when the police attempted entry into his house, but that excitement could have been caused by the mixture of the drugs and the fear of Wright coming back to his house. Maybe RF did not hear the words”police” because his dogs were barking, he did admit to hearing the knocking which caused the dogs to bark.

    What have we learned? That no plan, no how many times it has been conducted may not work. I think to many people on this board want cookie cutter answers. No more “what if’s” RF or the police did this. In the end I hope everyone takes a step back, takes a breath and looks at the big picture.

  15. Price says:


    Where would you draw the line on which drugs would be legalized, just curious?

    • Don Tabor says:

      “Where would you draw the line on which drugs would be legalized,”

      Well, your question wasn’t direct to me, but consider this.

      If a person wants to destroy his own life with drugs, we could just let him do it.

      In the 1920’s, heroin and cocaine were available over the counter, with no prescription, at any drugstore. There were people who became addicted, but really no more so than now. There were no pharmacists doing drive by shootings or engaging in gang wars over ‘turf.’ Our prisons were not filled with young pharmacists. Pharmacists were not bribing policemen or judges. Pharmacists were not giving free samples to schoolchildren to get them hooked.

      There was plenty of organized crime, of course, but not over narcotics, which were legal, but over alcohol, which was not.

      If I could peacefully persuade every American to live without drugs, I would be the first to do it. But prohibition did not work for alcohol, and it will not work for drugs. When force and economics conflict, economics always wins. Why do you think the Kennedy’s are rich?

      The real harm from drugs is the result of the gang activity related to providing them, and that results from the enormous profit margins created by the risk premium our laws add to the prices.

      So, if you really want to put the Crips and Bloods out of business, the way to do it is to make them compete with WalMart by making their products legal. At a 2% profit margin, the gangs would melt away overnight.

  16. Zargon says:

    Yes yes, lets all stop talking about possible alternative outcomes had the police not decided to arrest the guy in probably the most dangerous fashion possible. That’s not important.

  17. Zargon says:

    “Where would you draw the line on which drugs would be legalized, just curious?”

    I would answer that neither ktc2, nor I, nor you, nor anybody, has any right to draw that line. Drawing that line requires one to assume themselves to have at least partial ownership over every person affected, for if we assume that each person fully owns themselves, there’s no logical reason to disallow them from doing whatever they want to themselves.

  18. Price says:


    Good point, for every reason there maybe to legalize marijuana, cocaine,etc, there are the same reasons not too.

  19. ktc2 says:

    Sorry but there is not even so much as a “good faith” argument in favor of the drug war. Anyone who supports it is either a) misinformed or b) evil.

    The drug war has killed more people and ruined more lives than any and all illegal drugs combined.

    It is immoral and counter productive.

    Where would I draw the line? I wouldn’t. Well okay I would draw the line at consenting ADULTS can put whatever they please in their own body.

    Now when we absolutely need to punish those who harm others and drug use should never be a valid excuse for one’s behavior that does so.

    `A drug is neither moral nor immoral – it’s a chemical compound. The compound itself is not a menace to society until a human being treats it as if consumption bestowed a temporary license to act like an asshole’ – Frank Zappa –

  20. Marty says:


    The legalization argument has been bouncing around for a long time. The same reasons proposed for alcohol being banned are being used for drugs/cigarettes/trans fat, etc. There’s a lot of propaganda, esp from the nannies.

    I think they should all be legalized. The dangers of street drugs and street dealers would pretty much evaporate- just as it did with alcohol. People would know the dosages of the drugs instead of guessing. People know what 3 beers will do to them.

    The US has the strictest alcohol/drug laws of any democracy. All it’s doing is filling up our prisons. It’s time for common sense.

  21. Michael says:


    As long as the approach remains the same, breaking down doors for serving warrants, escalating, unwittingly, to deadly force level, cops and innocent citizens are going to die. Second guessing is not what people appear to be doing here. They are pointing out a flaw in the system. How would medicine be if, every time, a flaw in medical care was uncovered (heart attacks from NSAIDS for example), doctors just promoted more of the same! More people would die! Same for deadly cockpit procedures in airliners, people would die from unneeded plane crashes. Why ignore the facts that brought this case to this, deadly, level in the first place? And so far as losing career, savings, and houses. At least those people are still alive. The dead have no choices. Maybe one of the lives saved, by stopping procedures that endanger everybody, with very little realistic benefit, could be that of a friend of yours!

    The best plan could be, no plan. At least, no plan to rush in like maniacs, telling everybody in sight to “shut the fvck up” and “get on the floor”, when a simple knock on the door, at a reasonable hour, could prevent similar results, altogether. Children and animals are all put at risk with this type of behavior as well. I am sure Cheye Calvo doesn’t think business as usual is fair to the American public. He has experienced it first hand and he is not going to let it go away! At least he did not get shot and killed! Just his dogs did!

  22. Tom says:

    Maybe the CPD could take a course in serving warrants from the VBPD. The VBPD just confiscated 150 plants and arrested an individual without any shots being fired or anyone injured.

  23. KennJ says:

    In it’s most honest form the “War on Drugs” is only a political tool and nothing more. The sooner it ends and drugs are sold and controlled as booze is the sooner we will be over the travesty that has affected all of the citizens of our country in a most detrimental way from prisons filled with non-violent offenders costing 35-50 grand a year to house(our own gulag)to the addicts unable to get medical assistance to get their lives under control (easier to lock em up).
    No profit, no drug gangs. Drugs on an individual basis are a medical issue and the police have no business involved if we are to take our constitutional ideals seriously.
    As far as this trial I do not see where they have a conviction if the evidence is taken at face value.The guy obviously was in fear for his life and protected his home from intruders.

  24. bear says:

    First let me say I hit submit comment before I wanted to after starting down a long rant of stream of consciousness musings…and instead of alerting anyone (I can’t seem to be able to edit my posts) I decided to let it play out.

    That said, I stand by my post, and while I apologize for some of the offensive language and turns of phrase, it shouldn’t diminish my larger point. I am (was) a law and order type, Marine Corps MP, ForRecon alumn, and washed out small town sheriff’s deputy. I just couldn’t take the culture or the prevailing us against them; good vs evil mentality. I was disgusted by the training on deception, mind games, rehearsed testimony, commonplace and routine obstruction of justice, false police report filing, charge sheet padding, and general militarization of our responsibilities…the absurd justifications, and the blue wall. They are all anethma to what good policing should be about and/or accomplish.

    I say I ~was~ a law and order type because my brushes with LE and the justice system, show me that the whole notion of equal protection, and blind justice is just an illusion.

    My sympathies for Mrs Shivers, and her children. I hope Det. Shivers was an exception to my experience.

    I hope RF sleeps at home in the very near future, and that some [rogue] LEO doesn’t purge him from the citizenry out of the “goodness of his cause,” or “the mettle of his moxy,” or “to make the world right” for Det Shivers legacy.

    I’m not optimistic for any of my predictions.

    Best to all…and be safe, compassionate, honest, and reasonable in all of your dealings in this life.


  25. doug says:

    “How dare you condemn them for having to to talk to and associate with criminals and low lives. It’s who they deal with on a daily basis to protect and serve YOU.”

    I have to disagree with this comment. Arrest statistics indicate that they are talking to low lives first to arrest them for consensual (drug) crimes, second to find other low lives to arrest, next possibly to protect my stuff, fourth because they are brown/black and need harassment, finally to protect the elderly. I’ve never had an interaction with the police where it wasn’t apparent that they thought they were above the law/sole arbiters of the law, and I’ve never had a positive interaction with them. And I’m a middle class white guy. Thank god RF isn’t black/brown or he wouldn’t have a chance.

  26. Price says:

    Good discussion, Dr. T valid point that I did not consider. If a person wants to abuse and ruin their body with drugs, who are we (society) to stop them.
    I wonder how the law in Amsterdam are working, what are their problems and success with their drug laws?

    • Don Tabor says:


      No compassionate person could believe people destroying their lives with drugs is a good thing, and I personally view a clear mind as my most precious part of life. But, doing something terribly destructive that doesn’t work is not the answer.

      I firmly believe an addict to any drug, whether legal, like nicotine, or illegal, like narcotics, cannot really be helped until they are ready to make the effort to quit. When a smoker decides to quit, he is regarded as brave by his family and friends and he can count on the support of his family, employer and community in his efforts. But a drug user who makes the choice to quit risks losing his job, his freedom, and his insurance coverage if he comes forward and admits to his problem and seeks help. That is not the best way to help him.

      The battle against drug abuse is best fought in the arenas of health care, one person at a time, or across the board in economic terms, and not by a horribly destructive prohibition that has had 40 years to work and has made not the least progress.

      I am not advocating that we give up in the war against drug abuse, I am suggesting we fight it where we have at least some chance of winning.

  27. eddie says:

    Thank you Bear.

    Here is a link to a Regent Law School lecture that discusses police tactics in dealing with people and a detective that gives a lecture at the end to confirm it. It is almost an hour long, but very very informative:

  28. Len Rothman says:

    Will only RF accept responsibility? Probably.

    Copswife comment sums up the problem among most municipal police and the citizenry. A siege mentality has evolved over the years in most police departments so that any criticism is evidence of siding with the criminals.

    The only way to get past that sort of thinking is through strong internal leadership with civilian oversight. Not unlike our President being Commander in Chief of the military.

    Yes, cops have a difficult job. But it is voluntary. There is no draft for police. Perhaps a better pay scale would increase quality in the ranks due to stronger standards and competition. I am not insinuating that the folks currently employed are necessarily bad or under qualified. But it seems to me that this case exemplifies what lack of good leadership can lead to.

    Nothing is this case required an assault of that magnitude on an occupied dwelling. Nothing.

    But, apparently no one took charge to make sure this didn’t escalate from a simple search warrant to this tragedy.

    Now, for copswife to insinuate that because we don’t have the guts or courage to do a policeman’s job, we have to accept their judgments is ludicrous as well as insulting.

    Police, like any other municipal service, has to be accountable for all their actions, particularly the ones involving search and seizures, a constitutional issue at the very least.

    The jury in this case has a tough job, but acquittal can be the only just outcome for two reasons:

    1) It is the right call

    2) It will put immense pressure on the Chesapeake leadership to scrutinize procedures and put the sanctity of life ahead of all considerations in an assault on private dwellings or property.
    Police need to think in similar terms of those policies that have curtailed high speed chases unless certain parameters are met, such as saving a life, a hostage situation or kidnapping and the like. The lives lost on the highway due to 100 mph pursuits of speeders or burned out tail lights were not in the best interest of the community. The same thinking should apply in warrants for home assaults.
    If the police expect to maintain the respect of the community they serve, then assault tactics used in this case must be the rare, very rare, exception to the rule.

  29. auggie says:

    What about the consequences of letting Wright walk. IMO he is the cause of this whole mess. If he didn’t lie and steal not to mention betray RF and CPD then they would’ve been fighting real crime. I heard somone(possibly LE) complain about all the cases police have to work as an excuse for using informants. If they are busy why would they be wasting time on 3 plants. This was small time by any standard. The consequences for the public are huge if RF is found guilty the Police will escalate the violence against the citizenry or at least carry on if he’s acquitted I fear the results will be the same. Realistically the police will not have consequences except for, det. Shivers, that is.

  30. rdg says:

    Drink milk….builds a better body

  31. Chalicechick says:

    Copswife, if you’re still reading this, what do you think about the police’s reliance on Steven Wright?

  32. mikestermike says:

    Regardless of the verdict, Ryan is not safe in Chesapeake. I fear for his well-being.

  33. ktc2 says:

    According to a post on a verdict has been reached according to a reporter in the court.

  34. bear says:

    Pilot on-line reporting same…Verdict reached.

  35. Voluntary Manslaughter.

  36. bear says:

    guess or verdict Rick?

  37. Price says:

    Bear, VP says it is a verdict and even guilty on marijuana possession too.

  38. ktc2 says:

    That’s too bad. Sounds like a “compromise” verdict which should never happen.

  39. ktc2 says:

    So the system fails again . . .

  40. mikey says:

    Guilty of voluntary manslaughter (1 to 10 years ??)
    Not guilty of using a gun
    Guilty of Mary Jane possession (max 30 days)

  41. bear says:

    I see that…

    there’s really no question that he possessed some weed and that he slaughtered a man.

    As far as I’m concerned, this is a thorough rebuking of the prosecution, and a stern warning to police. The prosecution should take from this that they overreached and were put down hard by the jury. They are extremely lucky to have had the judge give the jury to convict on lesser charges. Here’s another example of how unjust our “justice system” is. A prosecutor can get up and say to a jury I will prove that this man committed capital murder, and is a hardened drug dealing thug. When they fail to do so they they just reset the goal posts after the game is played. Absurd.

    And to LE…STOP BUSTING DOWN DOORS, and playing ninja, like a juiced up linebacker , exercising your monopoly power of violence on the words of scumbag liars, without checking things out for yourself. More of you will be slaughtered if you don’t!


  42. bear says:

    In closing I have a thought and a question:

    1(t). I am very encouraged by today’s verdict. The tide is turning Lady Justice…better get LE on board.

    2(q). Was RF, by virtue of his convictions, also aquitted of the other possible charges?


  43. Voluntary Manslaughter…

    I guess the Chesapeake Police Department – and in fact, police departments all over Tidewater – will accept the verdict of Voluntary Manslaughter against Ryan Frederick as an endorsement of the tactics they used at his home on 17 January.

  44. bear says:

    IFAQ…you are absolutely right. They would of, in fact, come to the same conclusion on the simple possession itself. That’s what they do, and that’s one reason why they routinely, and as a matter of training and policy pad charge sheets. Most of us call it stacking the deck, or outright lying or obstruction of justice. Police call it “just doing my job.”

    Always remember that at any time almost all of us are in violation of some law and subject to imprisonment.

  45. KennJ says:

    I hope an appeal is in the planning.

  46. Scooby Doo says:

    I read the compromise verdict as the jury finding the police culpable in this tragedy.
    Shame on you Det. Kiley Roberts, next time don’t be so lazy.

  47. Scooby Doo says:

    “I wonder how the law in Amsterdam are working, what are their problems and success with their drug laws?”
    You don’t have to wonder, you have a computer, Google it!
    While you’re at it check out Spain and Portugal.
    Here’s a little science for you to digest:
    Des Jarlais, Don, “Harm Reduction: A Framework for Incorporating Science into Drug Policy.” American Journal of Public Health. 1995; 85: pp. 10-12.

    The articles on addictive substances in this issue of the Journal provide additional information on both the adverse health consequences of the nonmedical use of psychoactive drugs and the ways in which such consequences might be reduced. It is now abundantly clear that the nonmedical use of psychoactive drugs is one of the major causes of health problems in the United States, as reflected in the physiological effects of the drugs (overdoses and alcohol cirrhosis), behavior while under the influence of drugs (drunken driving and domestic violence), and consequences inherent in drug administration (carcinogens in tobacco smoke, human immunodeficiency virus [HIV] and other serious infections transmitted through shared injection equipment). Additional health problems arise when criminal laws are used to suppress psychoactive drug use. The recent increases in homicide among US youth (1) may be a result of the increased availability of firearms associated with the illegal distribution of crack cocaine.

    That the United States has enormous health problems associated with the nonmedical use of psychoactive drugs is not surprising. Over the centuries, and particularly during the first quarter of the 20th century, (2-4) our laws and social customs for regulating this practice incorporated many fundamental scientific errors, such as (1) bad pharmacology–that marijuana is an addictive narcotic and that tobacco does not contain a drug; (2) bad psychology–that repetitive drug use can always be controlled rough intentional behaviors; (3) bad sociology–that the drugs used by foreigners and minority groups are the bad drugs, and that criminal laws can effectively reduce psychoactive drug use at a low cost to society; and (4) bad economics–that the increase d “cost of business” for selling an illegal product will outweigh the increased profits to be made from selling through illegal markets.

    The point is not to identify the scientific mistakes in our present system for regulating nonmedical psychoactive drug use, but to develop a new system that is consistent with present scientific knowledge and able to incorporate new scientific findings . If the United States is to reduce the adverse health consequences of such drug use, we will probably need an explicit public health perspective on it. Spurred by the urgency of the HIV epidemic among injection drug users, groups in Europe and Australia have been developing just such a perspective, using the terms “harm reduction” and “harm minimization” to describe it. (5-8)

    It must be emphasized that the harm reduction perspective is still under active development. and there is as yet no consensus on its fundamentals. Nevertheless, the following may be considered a current working list of its basic components:

    1. Nonmedical use of psychoactive drugs is inevitable in any society that has access to such drugs. Drug policies cannot be based on a utopian belief that nonmedical drug use will be eliminated.

    2. Nonmedical drug use will inevitably produce important social and individual harm. Drug policies cannot be based on a utopian belief that all drug users will always use drugs safely.

    3. Drug policies must be pragmatic They must be assessed on their actual consequences, not on whether they symbolically send the right, the wrong, or mixed messages.

    4. Drug users are an integral part of the larger community. Protecting the health of the community as a whole therefore requires protecting the health of drug users, and this requires integrating the drug users within the community rather than attempting to isolate them from it.

    5. Drug use leads to individual and social harms through many different mechanisms, so a wide range of interventions is needed to address these harms. These interventions include providing health care (including drug abuse treatment) to current drug users; reducing the numbers of persons who are likely to begin using some drugs; and, particularly, enabling users to switch to safer forms of drug use. It is not always necessary to reduce nonmedical drug use in order to reduce harms.

    The harm reduction perspective thus would be particularly amenable to using research findings. Indeed. within this perspective, failure to monitor the outcomes of nonmedical drug use and failure to use research findings would violate the core value of a realistic pragmatism. The harm reduction perspective emphasizes the need to base policy on research rather than on stereotypes of (legal and illegal) drug users.

    One of the most common criticisms of harm reduction programs (such as syringe exchanges) is that they would be a first step on the slippery slope toward legalization of currently illegal drugs. It is critical to understand the differences between a public health harm reduction perspective and a libertarian “everyone has the right to take whatever drugs he or she desires” perspective. Within the harm reduction perspective, individual rights are important and their loss is a harm to be avoided. At the same time, government and public health authorities have a definite responsibility for formulating policies to reduce the health and social harm associated with the nonmedical use of psychoactive drugs, and civil and criminal laws are seen potent tools toward this end. A harm reduction perspective does, however, call attention to the possible adverse health and social consequences of relying on criminal laws and stigmatizing drug users as methods for reducing nonmedical drug use.

    The value of harm reduction policies should be assessed against their actual effects on drug-related harms rather than on their consistency with cultural traditions. Accordingly, there are three immediate tasks for harm reduction in the United States:

    1. Providing adequate treatment for persons with psychoactive drug use problems. This should include problems with both legal and illegal drugs, and short and long-term types of treatment. A combination of public funding and private health insurance ma y be needed to provide an adequate treatment system.

    2. Reducing the transmission of HIV associated with illicit drug use. Recent estimates indicate that drug injection-related HIV transmission has become the most common type of new HIV infection in the country.(9) Harm reduction strategies, including treatment on demand and legal access to sterile injection equipment, (10) need to be implemented nationally. (11)

    3. Developing new regulatory formats for distributing drugs for some nonmedical use. New formats are needed in which adults have inconvenient and expensive but noncriminal access to some drugs. The drug preparations should be formulated to reduce the likelihood of dependency and of immediate behavioral impairment. Commercial advertising for the drugs should be severely restricted and countered by realistic countercommercials.

    The goal of such new regulatory formats can be stated in economic terms: to reduce the profit potential in selling products for nonmedical drug use. This economic goal is in sharp contrast to the present system, in which legal drugs are sold to tens of millions of persons at moderate profit margins and illegal drugs are sold to millions of persons at enormous profit margins. Tobacco/nicotine is an obvious example of nonmedical drug use where such a new regulatory approach is needed.

    Success on any of these three tasks would greatly enhance the political credibility of the harm reduction perspective and provide legitimacy for trying other harm reduction programs.

    On a longer term basis, it will also be important to create a health-oriented research and development program for nonmedical psychoactive drug use. If one accepts that people in the United States and elsewhere will continue using such drugs, it is obvious that current botanical. chemical, and neuroscience methods should be able to produce safer products than those currently available. both licit and illicit. Less harmful drug use could be based on new drugs, new methods of administration for current d rugs (such as nicotine inhalers. which would not produce carcinogenic smoke ). and new social customs to reduce drug-related harm (such as designated driver programs and injection without sharing the injection equipment).

    As better drug products and new social customs are developed, it will be important that the legal and regulatory restrictions placed upon them do not prevent them from replacing the more harmful products and customs.

    Developing public support for a harm reduction public health perspective on nonmedical drug use will not be easy.There are strong emotional commitments to cultural traditions that demonize selected psychoactive drugs. There are multibillion-dollar vested economic interests in the status quo arrangements for selling both legal and illegal drugs. While the health and criminal justice problems associated with the present “unrestricted marketing of legal drugs/war on illegal drugs” policies are rather obvious, many political leaders have responded by calling for the intensification of present policies rather than for the development of new policies. Herbert Kleber has called this the “needing ever more king’s horses and men to put Humpty together again” reaction (personal communication, October 1994).

    But there are also optimistic signs. There is a growing recognition that at least some of the adverse consequences of nonmedical drug use (e.g., HIV transmission) can be reduced without increasing drug use. There is also a growing recognition that current legal status is not commensurate with the addiction liability and health consequences of some drugs (e.g., nicotine in tobacco).

    There are also developments–the increased role of drug injection in HIV transmission, (9) the recent increase in marijuana and LSD use among youth, (12) the potential banning of tobacco by the Food and Drug Administration, the cost of incarcerating illicit drug users–that may force a reexamination policies toward nonmedical drug use. Public health officials need to articulate and promote harm reduction policies that can incorporate scientific research into programs to reduce the health and social problems associated with nonmedical drug use.

    The author is with the Beth Israel Medical Center, New York, NY


    1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Homicides among 15-19 year-old males–United States.1963-1991.MMWR. 1994:43:725-727.

    2. Musto DF. Opium, cocaine, and marijuana in American history. Sci. Am. 1991; 265:40-47.

    3. Musto DF. The American Disease: Origins of Narcotic Control. New York. NY: Oxford University Press: 1987.

    4. Courtwright DT. Dark Paradise: Opiate Addiction in America Before 1940. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press: 1982.

    5. Des Jarlais DC. Friedman SR. Ward TP. Harm reduction: a public health response to the AIDS epidemic among injecting drug users. Ann Rev Public Health. 1993:14: 413-450.

    6. Brettle RP. HIV and harm reduction in injection drug users. AIDS. 1991:5:125- 136.

    7. Berridge V. Harm reduction: an historical perspective. Presented at the Third International Conference on Reduction of Drug-Related Harm: March 1992: Melbourne, Australia.

    8. Heather N, Wodak A, Nadelmann E, O’Hare P, eds. Psychoactive Drugs and Harm Reduction: From Faith to Science.London, England: Whurr Publishers: 1993.

    9. Holmberg SD. Emerging epidemiological patterns in the USA. Presented at the Sixth Annual Meeting of the National Cooperative Vaccine Development Group for AIDS: October 30-November 4, 1993; Alexandria. Va.

    10. Kaplan EH. Khoshnood K. Heimer R. A decline in HIV-infected needles returned to New Haven’s needle exchange program: client shift or needle exchange? Am J Public Health. 1994:84:l99l-l994.

    11. National Commission on AIDS. The Twin Epidemics of Substance Use and HIV. Washington, DC: National Commission on AIDS; 1991.

    12. Johnston LD, O’Malley PM, Bachman JG. National Survey Results on Drug Use from the Monitoring the Future Study. 1975-1993. Vol. 1. Secondary School Students. Rockville, Md: National Institute on Drug Abuse; 1994.

  48. CEH says:

    10 years, per mike mather, chan.3

  49. CEH,

    10 years is what the prosecutors asked for, not what has been sentenced.

  50. CEH says:

    As of my post it was on the news, by Mike Mather???

  51. I’m at work, I can’t see it on TV. The Pilot just updated their website a minute ago. You’re right.

  52. The Johnny Appleseed of Crack says:

    Rick Caldwell,
    You said you might have some more info on Jarrod Shivers. I’m curious, was he an otherwise decent man who unthinkingly participated in these home invasion style raids? Or was he merely a thug with a gun and a badge?

  53. Scooby Doo says:

    Didn’t Shivers had special training in confiscation and asset forfeiture?

  54. Scooby Doo says:

    Sorry, Didn’t Shivers have special training in confiscation and asset forfeiture?

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