Treat addicts instead of jailing them, Frazier says City police chief notes half of abusers don't want cure

April 04, 1996|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier said yesterday that he would rather spend tax dollars for treatment of chronic drug abusers and not incarceration.

Appearing before a City Council committee that is considering his reappointment as police commissioner, Mr. Frazier said nearly half of the city's estimated 50,000 heroin and cocaine addicts do not want to get off drugs, and jailing them is not the solution.

"I think there is a medical alternative that could be better than what we do now," he said.

His remarks come just days after reports in The Sun disclosed that he and several of Baltimore's most influential business, religious and political leaders were meeting privately to draft a plan that would substitute medical treatment for jail for drug addicts.

The ad hoc committee -- which includes Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, Cardinal William H. Keeler of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and Dr. Morton I. Rapoport, president and chief executive of the University of Maryland Medical System -- was formed in December to devise ways to dramatically alter the city's approach to drug enforcement.

Mr. Frazier, hired by the mayor in 1994 to lead the 3,100-member Police Department, told the committee he could envision private physicians dispensing such drugs as methadone, which is used to treat heroin addicts.

He also said he supports research on similar treatments for cocaine users.

Some council members said they opposed such measures.

"You make it sound like you are going to arbitrarily give out methadone as a magic bullet," said 2nd District Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge.

Council President Lawrence A. Bell III said that instead of focusing on ways for drug addicts to avoid jail, Mr. Frazier should crack down on even the most minor of drug crimes.

"What you are doing is not really in line with zero tolerance," said Mr. Bell, referring to a term used by police officials nationwide who strictly enforce drug laws.

But Mr. Frazier, who this year announced he would direct officers to concentrate on seizing guns and de-emphasize arrests for possession of small quantities of drugs, said zero tolerance will not work in Baltimore.

Arresting just one offender on minor drug charges means an officer has to spend almost four hours to complete the paperwork, he said. That would take too many officers off the streets, he said.

The council likely will vote Monday on Mr. Frazier's reconfirmation to a six-year term.

Pub Date: 4/04/96

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