Diane Goldstein interviewed

Diane Goldstein Interviewed: a police woman against the ban

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When my publisher asked me about what women did I consider an example of brave fight in my interest areas, my mind come up full of options as brave women fighting on sciences. But when I thought of the drug policy reform field, my options were not that much, but in the cannabis zone where are many fighting women.

But those 3 women that finally got into my mind, have been fighting relevant issues on drug related areas -for different reasons- and all of them deserve my keen and deep admiration for their fight. One of them was Carrie Tyler, Tim Tyler's sister (finally got granted a presidential pardon given by Barack Obama before he left the White House), who was suffering 2 life sentences in prison for drug possesion and no victim or harm related on his doing. She had in her Twitter account bio this sentence: “I need a miracle”. She got it, and his brother will be released this year.

Another one was Lyn Ulbricht, Ross Ulbricht's mother, who was also condemned to spent his life in prison (2 life's plus 35 years, exactly), as the presuming head of the Silk Road anynomous market where drugs can be bought on the Tor network. She's the one that has been leading -and still does- the fight for Ross' freedom, on one of the cases that may set some of the worst options for the freedom in Internet.

And the third one is Diane Goldstein.

She's a brave and bold woman, whom I share my love for dogs with, and who in other scenario would be my “natural enemy”: she was a narcotics cop -among many other things- so if I'd live in USA perhaps we would have met, and not through Internet.

I can't remember how did we begin to talk. It was at Twitter but a few years ago, and that ended with this curious relationship between a angry drug user and a retired cop that has become one of the most interesting voices in the drug policy reform movement, being the speaker of LEAP (now Law Enforcement Action Partnership).

Few days ago, I asked her for an interview and she was so kind to agree, and from those questions arose the piece on Diane Goldstein that we offer you now.

Hi Diane. How old were you when you decide to became a cop and why? What happened in your young woman's mind to want to be one police officer in a country such USA?

I was 20 years old and I was in school and working, and where I worked I was exposed to many police officers. I went out on a ride-a-long with a police agency and became interested. I was intrigued by the job because of how I grew up and I felt like I could give back to my community in a positive way.

How was the ratio of men and women when you became a cop in the POLICE?

I was one of five women officers when I was hired in 1983 and there were five when I retired in 2004 about 5%. The contingent of female officers at any given time was about 5% of the total department during my career. Because of these low numbers, I felt my competence was a direct reflection on all female officers, and would have an impact on the future of female officers in the agency.

How has been your personal experience as woman in such job, that has been always numerically a male's job? You're a strong woman that reached leadership posititions. How was that path?

Although women have served in leadership roles throughout our past, I believe our capabilities are still untapped, not just in drug policy reform, but in many other fields as well. The biggest roadblocks to women in leadership are not just placed on us by society, but by ourselves through our acceptance of the roles dealt to us. I have never self-identified as a feminist; yet I recognize if it were not for the feminist movement I would not have had the ability to have a successful law enforcement career while simultaneously raising my son.

While it was difficult, I truly believed I had it all. My career path provided the framework for many things —my path to activism, my parenting skills and my ability to become a leader. As the second generation of the vanguard of women in law enforcement in the 80’s, my on-the-job training was navigated through an undefined road map as a trailblazer in policing. My path to leadership was laden with lessons as I balanced being a strong female with a male-dominated culture.

I spent my formative years constantly feeling I needed to prove my ability. My standard was not mere proficiency but excellence. Those early years of law enforcement exposed me to many things, good and bad. I have seen the best and worst of people in the general population, as well as both extremes in my co-workers which taught me how to not take things personally, to rise above the fray and most importantly, it instilled in me the strength and determination to redefine myself and evolve through life.

What kind of duty did you had to do in your job?

Daily routine depended on the type of assigment, but I worked everything from Patrol to Investigations. Narcotics and gangs were a specialty. I retired as the first female lieutenant in the department.

When did you became a police officer that was against drug prohibition? When and why did your mind changed on that matter?

My brother suffered from mental health and chronic substance abuse. He passed away from a poly-drug overdose in 2007. Between my personal and my professional experience, I saw that the enforcement of our drug laws did not prevent drugs from being used or sold.

Do you do any drug  from coffee to morphine, alcohol to whatever?

I drink coffee and alcohol. I recognize that there is a wide spectrum of drugs. When I was a teenager I smoked cannabis and that also shaped my views on its enforcement.

When did you became LEAP speaker?

I became a speaker for LEAP in 2010 during the California Proposition 19 Campaign. I am both a speaker and a member of the Board of Directors. LEAP has relaunched and is now known as the Law Enforcement Action Partnership. Our mission has not changed but we had adopted other criminal justice reform including mass incarceration, global issues, civil asset forfeiture and police and community relations.

Which should be the role of the police forces in the epidemic “OD'ing on opioids” age, like the one USA and Canada are having now?

Despite the perceived conflicts between public health and policing, many agencies advocate for the use of harm reduction initiatives as part of their community policing strategies. Notable examples include the successful implementation, since 2011, of Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) programs in King County, Washington and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

LEAD gives officers the ability to connect low-level, nonviolent drug dealers and drug users with treatment and services as a pre-booking diversion alternative to jail. Is LEAD a perfect antidote to prohibition? No—some critics have described it as “coercive.” But it is a huge step forward, and “any positive change” is what harm reduction is all about.

Not long ago I interviewed former Seattle Police Chief Jim Pugel, who oversaw the introduction of LEAD, about the program. He emphasized and believes, as I do, that “helping addicted people out of crime and disorder into a safer place for all is a measure of a caring society, and certainly a caring police department.”

LEAD is focused on the health of both the community and the individual. By taking a holistic approach to problematic drug use, LEAD recognizes that abstinence and relapse are part of a complex issue and that other metrics are more valuable than positive or negative drug screenings. This example of a coherent link between public health and policing has changed and improved public safety, reducing both criminality and the harms of drug use.

But it’s not just LEAD that is changing the nature of policing. It’s also the collaboration of drug policy reformers, both grassroots activists and legislators, to push laws designed to prevent drug overdose deaths. The passage of more state Good Samaritan and naloxone access laws has contributed to a growing acceptance by law enforcement of its role in promoting positive health outcomes.

The naloxone program launched by the police department of Quincy, Massachusetts, for example, was once considered novel—risky, even. But it has now saved 300 lives and counting, and is being imitated across the country. Naloxone in the hands of the police, who are frequently the first responders at the scene, has fueled a drug-war paradigm shift. Even the Office of National Drug Policy (ONDCP) has noted this—increasingly using harm reduction language in discussing future drug control strategies, and sending its acting head, Michael Botticelli, to address the national harm reduction conference in Baltimore a few months ago.

So are we on the brink of making peace with drugs? Despite the many gains we have made, the largest impediments to dismantling the drug war remain the stigmatization of substance use and a political over-reliance on enforcement. Yet even if we can’t all agree right now on ending prohibition, we can arrive at a shared commitment to saving lives.

How would the police change in your country if drug become regulated? How would be cops without war on drugs?

We would concentrate on violent and property crime

How was the reaction of “common people” (let's say) when you met them and they knew that you were a cop, and you were against “War on Drugs” also?

We have over 150,000 community supporters as well as over 5,000 current, former and criminal justice professionals. It’s overwhelmingly positive

And how was (and/or is) the reaction of your colleague’s cops when you tell them you’re against WoD?

It depends. I have had both positive and negative experiences.

I have a friend that was thinking about become a cop. What would you say to a young woman that wants to become a police officer?

It was a great job but it’s not for the faint of heart. But I would encourage her to do so as we need for women in policing.

Diane, it's been a pleasure talking to you. Thanks a lot for your time a work.

Thanks to you.