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Cressida Dick: I’d need 100,000 more officers to arrest every recreational drug user

Police commissioner hits back at Andrew Dismore over drugs strategy

17 May, 2019 — By Richard Osley

Met commissioner Cressida Dick taking questions at City Hall

LONDON’S police commissioner said she would need “100,000 more police officers” if the Met tried to arrest every recreational drug user, after being challenged on why wealthy bankers were never stopped and searched.

Cressida Dick said she was targeting those supplying the capital’s drug market – which includes parts of Camden – ahead of its customers because of a link with youth violence and stabbings.

“If you gave me 100,000 more officers I might be able to do something effective about demand from this end of the equation,” she told City Hall’s police committee on Tuesday morning. “But my professional judgment is that the best way to reduce demand is not for me to start going out trying to arrest every single person who is in possession.”

Cressida Dick explains her tactics clearly to Andrew Dismore

She added: “When we look at drugs, we look at that through the lens of violence and we are absolutely certain that to try and arrest our way from the person who is carrying a small amount of whatever in their travel to work or in their office or whatever – to go and start targeting them for that – would not be a good, sensible, helpful way to reduce the demand for drugs, to deal with the supply of drugs or certainly deal with the violence that stems from drugs.”

Ms Dick had been questioned over stop-and-search by Labour’s Andrew Dismore, London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden. She said trying to arrest everybody who was in possession of drugs would be a distraction from solving child abuse, terrorism and violent crime cases, but officers would “never turn a blind eye” when drug use was found.

Mr Dismore said: “I come back to a question I’ve put before in relation to drugs and ‘wealthy bankers’ for want of a stereotype engaged in so-called recreational drugs. How come it is, that we are not trying to target those people for stop-and-search in the same way black people may get stopped in relation to cannabis or other things.”

Mr Dismore added: “The market has two sides to it. If you focus on the supply, not the customers, what are the issues if we were targeting the people involved in buying class A drugs – and class A drugs have got an appalling chain of violence all the way back to South America or wherever. If you could reduce the demand, that also starts to reduce the supply, surely.”

The search for reasons behind the wave of knife killings led to debates over whether richer drug users were aware of the street feuds and gang warfare that can lie behind supply. Camden Council made bus stop posters trying to persuade visitors to Camden Town not to buy drugs on the basis that it ruined the lives further down the chain. The messages told of people stuck on cannabis farms working for drug lords.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has not visited the scene of fatal stabbings in Camden, but when Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn came to Kentish Town last year he spoke of an uneven drug market. “Smart, wealthy people turning up buying cocaine on the streets are part of the problem,” he said. “They don’t think they are. They don’t realise the impact they have on the streets. It’s our kids who are involved and our kids who are losing their lives because of it.”

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