Cops around the country have been issuing fake public health warnings about coronavirus and drugs. In Merrill, Wisconsin, for example, the local police department posted an advisory to its Facebook page Wednesday telling meth users that their drugs might be contaminated with coronavirus and that they should contact an officer for testing:
P.S.AWARNING: If you have recently purchased Meth, it may be contaminated with the Corona Virus. Please take it to the …
At a time when public health workers have been trying to spread actual information about a potential pandemic, it isn't especially helpful for the authorities to spread false information about the disease. And no, you can't assume that everyone will pick up that the police post is false. Indeed, local media elsewhere in the country have been known to repeat such warnings as straight news.
These posts also mark an unfortunate contrast with places that are trying to offer real help to drug users. Safe injection sites, for example, not only lead to safer drug use but give participants an opportunity to enroll in drug treatment programs. Unfortunately, many American officials have tried to stop such efforts, preferring the familiar, ineffective, and costly drug war.
One institution still attached to the drug war is the Merrill Police Department, which appears to believe it can arrest its way to recovery. On Thursday, the department tried to justify itself with an update to its Facebook post: "We will take those easy grabs at removing poison from our community whenever we can. That is our role which we un-apologetically must fulfill. It is our hope that an arrest would be the positive catalyst someone may need to start recovery. It is our hope that every drug arrest both works to hold offenders accountable for their deeds and provides them with a path toward treatment options. It is truly heart-warming when we see people succeed in such circumstances. It does happen!"
I assume they're sincere, but they're also fundamentally misguided. There are far more effective and compassionate ways to help addicts than by using a scary disease to try to trick people into an arrest.