Video Transcript: Two Police Chiefs Perspectives on the Opioid Crisis

The opioid crisis has grown to one of the largest issues that American law enforcement face. Chiefs, Richard Biehl, Chief of Police, Dayton (Ohio) Police Department, and Brandon del Pozo, Chief of Police, Burlington (Vermont) Police Department offer a police executive's perspective on managing the response and balancing a public health and criminal justice approach. The chiefs also offer up advice for other jurisdictions based on what they’ve learned.

Chiefs Biehl and del Pozo, participated in the panel “Opioids and the Law Enforcement Response: Partnerships for Public Safety and Improved Outcomes,” presented by the National Institute of Justice at the 2018 International Association of Chiefs of Police annual conference. This video was filmed following the panel.


BRANDON DEL POZO: Our role in the opioid crisis is to be a partner in a response to what is a public health epidemic.  A lot of what goes on in the world of opioid abuse is unlawful, but the biggest contributions that we’re not going to make in our role are going to come from merely enforcing the law.  There’s an underlying medical problem here, there’s an underlying societal problem, and we have partners who can help us make sure we don’t have to go in alone when it comes to saving lives and bringing people to treatment.  So, our role really is not only to just enforce the law but to act as a provider for access to treatment and services, and everything else that’s going to take to have somebody survive and then recover from opioid addiction.

RICHARD BIEHL: If it is merely having someone recover from an overdose but not providing the help they need, the prognosis for that is pretty poor.  The likelihood is that the overdose is going to continue because the person is suffering from addiction.  So the harm reduction is really about getting people the help that they need and really a better response to this epidemic is a coordinated, and strategic, and integrative response that involves all the necessary partners, clearly treatment providers are a crucial portion of it.  Public health overall is a convener and one that can develop an integrated strategy is important to have at the table.  Community partners, survivors, family members all have a role in responding to the opioid epidemic.

BRANDON DEL POZO: You know, we have to meet everybody at least halfway, so what that means is we don’t just go and tell folks what we see from the police side of things, or how police would solve this problem, or how they could change their way of doing business to help them--the police get a good response.  But I think we need to learn how public health and medical people think, how they analyze their problems, how they come up with solutions, and how they work, how their institutions work, so that we can really come together and do this, so that we can tailor our institutional responses to the types of public health responses that matter.  And they can figure out how to use the wisdom, and the experience, and the resources that come with policing to help their work, too.  So it’s really about having the skills and the wisdom to meet halfway.  To do that, I’ve hired an Opioid Policy Analyst, she works in my office, she’s an expert at this type of work.  And I’ve hired an epidemiologist who works in the police department.  And together, I think what they do is give us the sort of, like, the intellectual firepower to be on an equal footing with our peers and really collaborate.

Date Created: May 13, 2019