The Laconia, New Hampshire, police department is a shining example of a new style of policing being used to combat the opioid epidemic. Recently-retired Laconia police chief Chris Adams says, “You just can’t go out there, blanket arrest everybody and think that the issue of substance misuse is going to get better.”
Being proactive rather than reactive is what the Laconia police force strives for. Not only does this department have an officer dedicated to helping citizens with drug addiction, they have those placed under arrest fill out report cards on the arresting officer. In 2016, the Department of Justice published a memo on their strategy to combat the opioid epidemic. Adams says he was pleased to see that Laconia was already instituting the suggested practices and more.
In Laconia, anyone who is arrested is given a report card to grade the arresting officer on how they performed their duties. When an officer receives a grade of C or below, the police chief personally calls to better understand what the issues were.
Laconia has created a position for a Prevention, Enforcement, and Treatment (PET) officer. Adams says the goal is for the department to go the extra mile and take more initiative. This extends to issues of drug addiction in particular.
“We really have the opportunity to intervene… at the most critical moment," he said. "I think that we need to take that moment to at least try and improve the condition that they are in.”
The PET officer is solely dedicated to helping high-risk individuals seek sobriety. The officer works to pull together all available resources that the state has to offer and support individuals as they get help.