Last week, we talked with the professionals at the Human Resource Center (HRC). This week, I wanted to get the perspective of local law enforcement.
Since starting this series on drugs in our community (and really, before), I’ve seen and heard many comments like, “Why don’t the Police do anything?” Or, “The cops know where the drug houses are; why don’t they just shut them down?” And, “They keep arresting them, and then they just get right back out.”
First of all, you need to know that I’m unashamedly very pro-law enforcement. I’ve been a police officer and still have a heart for it. It’s a tough and (mostly) thankless job they do, with great risks, but they’re doing it. I can tell you they’re working on it.
So I’m aware that there’s usually more going on than meets the eye. Investigations have to run their course. Evidence has to be gathered, and a case has to be made. These things take time.
It was with this understanding that I met with our new Police Chief, Mike Henness. Mike’s been with the Paris Police Department since 1989, and was appointed to Chief a month ago. Prior to that, he’d been an OIC (officer in charge of shift), training officer, and of particular interest to this article, a DARE officer for many years.
DARE stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, and is a program that helps children in grade school become more aware of the dangers of drugs. This is a critical community program that’s still close to the new Chief’s heart.
TD: How have things changed in this community over the years?
Chief Henness: When I started in ’89, a person could walk down the sidewalk without seeing needles laying there. I’ve also seen a drastic increase in the number of reported stolen prescription drug medications.
TD: I see a pattern of how this develops in people, that often begins with drinking and smoking marijuana. Do you see it that way?
Henness: And smoking cigarettes. A lot of people forget about the addictive quality of smoking cigarettes, too.
TD: Why are they doing it?
Henness: Peer pressure; to fit in. They’re all trying to seek something; to fill a void. A lot of times, they don’t even know what that void is. That’s the message we’re trying to get across (in DARE). It’s not about what this drug does to you, or that drug does to you; it’s about the benefits of choosing not to (use drugs), and they can still be popular or cool.
TD: But some kids still do it.
Henness: Yes. Some do it to rebel, or experiment.
TD: You see a lot of the family impact.
Henness: We all do. First day rookies see that.
TD: You’ve been doing DARE a long time.
Henness: Yes. The City’s been marvelous in supporting the DARE program over the years. They’ve given us the core program for grade schools and Officer Friendly.
TD: I know that’s a great program, but it’s just in 5th grade, right? What can we do in junior high, or high school, when the drugs are closer to them?
Henness: Actually, there is a core curriculum available for junior high, and also a High School DARE curriculum.
TD: But we don’t have those programs in place?
Henness: Not at this time. We have just 15 officers, most of whom specialize in something, be it DUI’s or the drug task force, DARE.
TD: You’ve seen some kids that you’ve had in DARE. Some just don’t make it…
Henness: The DARE program is not a pill. They still make their own decisions. I like to attend every high school graduation. I like to stand up in the balcony. And in that time, I think back to when they were in grade school. I’m also aware of the ones that are missing…
TD: You remember them.
Henness: Oh yes.
TD: Do you ever encounter kids you had in the DARE program?
Henness: All the time… and then there are the kids who are no longer with us, who had a sparkle for, and zest for life. And that was all taken away by the need to fit in with that crowd.
TD: Now heroin is making a comeback.
Henness: Heroin is a killer.
TD: Why do people choose heroin?
Henness: It’s cheaper than getting prescription drug medication.
Note: At this point, Terry Rogers joined us. Terry is a veteran of 11 1/2 years with approximately 8 1/2 years as Task Force Coordinator for the Paris Police Dept, which investigates drugs and also IL Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) cases.
TD: Why did you make that move to the task force?
Rogers: Something in me. Drugs were my thing and I went after them pretty hard.
TD: What happened to the county-wide drug task force? Are you working with the E. Central IL Drug Task Force?
Henness: We still have mutual aid agreements with the county.
Rogers: I work with their detective daily.
TD: There used to be several drug dogs in the county. Now there are none. How has that affected things?
Rogers: I can assure you that drug arrests have gone down since we haven’t had a drug dog (immediately available). We have access to one from other jurisdictions, but it can take a couple hours to get it, if it’s available.
Note: Recent changes in case law have limited the amount of time an officer can spend waiting on a drug dog to arrive for searches during traffic stops, as well as limiting the times in which you can use them.
TD: So it would help to have one immediately available.
Rogers: Oh yes. Sometimes you need one now. We have an officer in particular who would like to do it and has a very special interest.
TD: What would that take?
Rogers: The initial cost is around $5,000. Then you have their training. So up to $10,000.
TD: What is the state of drugs right now.
Rogers: Meth is still the worst problem in this area. However, Heroin is a death generator. It’s been around for some time, but if there’s a bad batch…
TD: Where is it coming from?
Rogers: Champaign and Danville.
TD: I hear people say, “It seems like people keep getting caught but nothing ever gets done around here.”
Rogers: It seems like it. But a lot depends on their criminal history. If they’re arrested the first time, they might get probation. The second time, maybe some jail time. I’ve seen people get arrested 3-4 times before they go to prison.
TD: That’s got to bother you.
Rogers: It will get to you very badly if you let it. You’ll arrest this person, but you see them walking the streets 2-3 months later. I’ve made hundreds of cases but have only had to go and testify a few times. Most of the time they make a plea-bargain, and the case is out of our hands.
TD: So how do you handle it?
Rogers: We build cases. Like the recent case of a meth house within 130′ of a daycare and 900′ of a school as an aggravating factor. You write your report and have to move on to the next one.
TD: There’s lots to do.
Rogers: There are lots of cases. You do a little here, wait for something to happen; work on this other one; gather evidence; bounce back and forth until you can make the arrest.
TD: What about other crimes?
Rogers: Meth creates burglaries; theft. They trade or sell stolen items (for drugs).
TD: They’re related?
Rogers: They walk hand-in-hand in any community with a meth problem. It’s $150 for one little gram of meth; you’ll steal money from family, friends; tools, vehicles.
TD: When I did the first interviews with people caught up in it, I was really surprised about some things; I became more compassionate.
Rogers: A lot of them aren’t bad people. A person starts off well. They make the bad decision of trying it once, and now they’re in hock to it.
TD: Lets talk about the heroin problem.
Rogers: You don’t find a lot of it. It’s ingested one time and it’s gone. You’ll find dirty spoons, needles, cotton.
TD: How do they get it?
Rogers: It’s $40/use. But like with meth, they’re broke. They pool money to make a trip and buy $200 worth.
TD: What is it like for them?
Rogers: Other users (of other drugs) would say heroin users are not much fun to be around. They shoot up and just lay there.
TD: What are they getting?
Rogers: Euphoria, carelessness, a not-a-care-in-the-world feeling.
TD: What are some signs of heroin use?
Rogers: Excessive sleeping; loss of appetite; withdrawing from friends and family. If they go without (using) for a few days, they’ll be sick to their stomach; sweating profusely.
TD: And meth?
Rogers: It makes them feel invincible and invisible; nothing can stop them; no one can see them. I’ve heard people say that (when they were tweaking) they felt like they could walk right in a house to steal something, and no one could see them.
TD: Signs of meth abuse?
Rogers: Excited; anxiousness; maybe paranoid; up all hours of day and night, followed by up to 24 hours of sleep, if you’ve been up a week; fast-talking.
TD: What do you think of Drug Courts?
Rogers: It gives you (the user) alternatives and keeps you in check. It might generate funds that could be used to help continuing drug education for law enforcement.
TD: What would you like the community to understand about the law enforcement drug effort?
Rogers: We do have a problem in Paris, but there are problems everywhere; it’s not just Paris.
TD: If you could wave a magic wand and get what you need, what would it be?
Rogers: At least three drug officers for the city and county. A trained canine. Let’s get some funds. Let’s get a dog. In my experience, more arrests are shown when a canine is involved. We could start making a dent. There’s so much to do.