It has not yet struck eight on Sunday morning and Tala is to be delivered to a West End theatre in full hair and makeup within half an hour. I can’t find a hair net for love nor money and several kirby pins have already been inserted at such vicious angles that good will is in short supply on all sides. When the doorbell rings I suppose that the cabbie has gone old school on me and renounced the phone for legs, and so I am surprised when I find my firstborn, with slightly different coloured hair to yesterday plus two policemen, on the front step.
I react reasonably calmly but a little uncharitably with a long suffering “Oh God, what has she done?”. They assure me that she hasn’t done anything at all, and that they have only escorted her home out of concern. I can see why. It is below freezing and she is only wearing a T shirt. The blue hair is also adding to the Elsa effect. She is attempting to smile reassuringly at me, though it is clearly hard for her to bring me into focus and so the result is midway between a leer and a gurn and yet I suspect she looks a darn sight better than she did when they found her.
One of the officers beckons me outside and asks as delicately as possible if my daughter is “all right”. I’m not quite sure what he means and he clarifies by tentatively wondering if she has some kind of mental illness. I explain as gently as possible that there is nothing whatsoever wrong with her. Contrary to appearances, she is not special needs, just very, very pissed. He seems relieved. After all, he’s been there himself.
By now the cab has arrived and is lined up behind the panda. I try as quickly as possible to ascertain where they found her (Vauxhall?) and how she got there but as everyone, including Okha, seems confused I have to leave or risk this year’s Nutcracker missing a vital snowflake stage left on the back row, and so I thank them profusely, tell Okha sharply to proceed straight to bed, and head off to the theatre.
Later when she has sobered up enough to field my questions, albeit through the veil of a raging hangover, I am still none the wiser, as she genuinely doesn’t really know how she got from a club in Shoreditch to a station in Vauxhall, or why she was alone or where her favourite coat is. I wish I had thought to take the names of the officers who helped her. I desperately want to thank them. This is what policing should be about. They saw a dangerously inebriated girl on her own and protected her from the elements, herself and God only knows what else. This is crime prevention.
Furthermore they didn’t chastise her irresponsibility or berate my parenting and eclipse the lesson inherent in what was certainly an unpleasant and frightening experience for her, and thankfully seems to have shocked her into realising self-obliteration may not be the answer. They simply took care of her. This is community. I hope their superiors will agree that this was a good use of police time and that our saviours won’t be disciplined for providing a free Uber service to the nation’s drunken revellers.
I am lucky that there were officers to spare to look after my girl. Most are busy engaged in fighting “The War on Drugs”. I have just finished reading “Good Cop Bad War”, brilliantly written by ex-undercover agent Neil Woods. £7 Billion a year is spent by the police fighting this war in a way that will only ever result in escalating violence as the untouchable gangsters at the top intensify intimidation of their subordinates to protect themselves.
Most “dealer” convictions are actually just users funding their habit, unable to seek help for their addiction because it is criminalised. In general the police don’t care though as they, like so many of us, are fighting to keep their statistics (and budgets) up.
The illicit drug trade is also worth £7billion annually in the UK and £375 billion world wide: untaxed money that directly funds almost all other criminal activity; a booming unregulated industry that is also the underlying driver for the lion’s share of murders, robbery and gang violence.
Prison is full of men serving sentences for drugs. Rob knows many who are there as a result of entrapment stings: good men with bad habits. Others desperately need help for their addictions that they are not getting help for because addiction is penalised in jail, (though it is grounds for a yoga mat apparently, still denied to Rob who isn’t eligible for rehabilitation), and find themselves stuck in the revolving doors. Some are born to the business and are prepared to trade years of liberty in exchange for a livelihood. We aren’t all born to Eton families nor can we all be middle class users rather than suppliers.
Unlike so many in the police force Woods disagrees that the war on drugs can’t be won. It will be won when we stop fighting it. He has lived with the people that most cops just prosecute and the rest of us consider so “other” to ourselves that we can’t be concerned with their tarnished world. Rob lives with these men too and is in direct agreement: custodial sentences for drugs offences are an utter waste of their time and our money.
Woods estimates, calculating generously, that during his entire career he probably only managed to stop the supply of drugs for a total of eighteen hours whilst simultaneously exacerbating turf wars as rival gangs lined up to fill the vacuum. In direct contrast to the efficacy of his life’s work (or lack thereof), he also calculates that his investigations resulted in over a thousand years of prison time about which he says this:
“For me every single one of these is a year wasted. These are a thousand years of wasted human potential; a thousand wasted years of possible creativity, learning and exploration; a thousand wasted years of people languishing in tiny cells rather than contributing to the world”.
In 2014 the government released a major report which found categorically that punitive measures have no impact whatsoever on drug use, in fact drug use escalates in line with increased punishment. And yet we persist! Shall we stop now? Please? All our addiction theories of the 1980s have been debunked. Even “hard” drugs like cocaine only have the same addiction rates as alcohol (10%) which means that 90% of users do so without wrecking their lives.
Alcohol could have wrecked my life this weekend had not a kindly pair of young coppers noticed a small, blue haired drunk on the verge of freezing to death and brought her home to me. I am deeply grateful to them, and not always as grumpy as I must have looked that harassed morning.