City Adjusts Emergency Response to Overdose Deaths

When authorities receive an emergency drug-related call, one might expect to see medics and not necessarily police officers, but that is changing in Baltimore City.

Treating overdose investigations as crime scenes is the new tactic that the Baltimore Police Department is using in an effort to help stem the staggering number of overdose deaths in the city.

According to WBAL,

The point is to cut off the drug supply and distribution. As part of the plan, patrol officers will be the first point of contact to gather information at the scene of an overdose from witnesses or family members who, ideally, would trace back to a dealer.

“We’re trying to identify and track individuals that are supplying on the streets of Baltimore, and then build criminal cases against them regarding overdoses, particularly overdose death investigations,” Baltimore police Deputy Commissioner Dean Palmere said.

The patrol officers will report to a task force consisting of a sergeant and four detectives working out of the homicide unit. The officers are working in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“My only concern is that we have a high number of homicides in the city, and I would rather them be focused solely on the homicides, but we have to look at things in unique ways and also be able to trace back because people are being killed by this stuff,” Baltimore City Councilman Brandon Scott said.

According to the Baltimore City Health Department, there were more than 600 people who died from an overdose in Baltimore City last year, which is almost double the number of homicides.

Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen spoke to concerns from critics of the task force who argue that increased police intervention could keep people from seeking help: “It’s a fine line for us to walk, but it is really important for us to work hand in hand, and that’s why we work so closely with the police in these efforts to make sure that we further the public health cause and save lives while we also cut the supply of drugs in our area too.”

“The people who are supplying these opioids on the street are criminals, and they are causing harm to families, to communities and they’re causing death,” Palmere said.

Members of the task force have been selected, and about 1,000 patrol officers spanning all nine police districts are currently going through training.

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