Last year 23 year old James Munro overdosed and died at Defqon1 in Sydney. In his father's account, he took three pills after he saw there was a drug dog operation at the entrance. That was a preventable death and should not happen again.
Following James’ death, police expressed concerns about the harms that drug use can cause. Unharm commends and share those concerns.
We have written to the acting police commander of the Penrith Local Area Command calling for a different approach to policing at the festival on September 20 this year.
In the letter we've argued that general drug detection using dogs is counterproductive because it adds another level of harm. Panic-based fatal overdoses like the death of James Kelly are the most tragic outcome of this policing activity. Additional harms include non-fatal overdoses, and the antagonism and distrust that the program generates towards police.
There should be no drug dog operation at Defqon1 2014. This is urgent and is within the discretionary power of police.
The stated purpose of the NSW Police Force is to work with the community to reduce crime and violence and improve public safety. A drug dog operation at Defqon1 2014 will undermine community policing. It will not reduce crime in any meaningful way and it will not reduce violence. By increasing drug-related harms, it will undermine public safety.
In recognition of the NSW Police Force’s commitment to public safety, Unharm is seeking to engage with police to find better ways to address drug-related harms at Defqon1. We propose that a better approach would be to support harm reduction programs like the Red Cross’ Save a mate and by promoting a practice of care and responsibility among attendees.
Drugs are too harmful, and the problem is too urgent, to waste time and money on programs that increase the risks. We have urged the commander to call off the dogs for Defqon1 and have request an opportunity to meet with him at the earliest opportunity to collaborate on the development of alternatives that protect public safety.
The letter is below