The War on Drugs, the Ohio heroin epidemic, and the recent events surrounding police-involved shootings — these were all on the agenda when Chief of Springfield Police Stephen Moody spoke at Wittenberg.
On Wednesday, Jan. 28, Moody visited an introductory journalism class at Wittenberg. Moody has been chief of the Springfield Police Division [SPD] since 2003 and has worked for the SPD for over 40 years. Though the visit was an exercise for journalism students to practice their interviewing and note-taking skills, Moody addressed issues he said are pertinent to the Springfield community.
When asked about the police-involved fatal shootings of John Crawford III, Tamir Rice, and Michael Brown, Moody said they have highlighted the importance of communication and transparency between communities and police, two things he said his department does well.
“Transparency is a verb. We [police] have to walk the walk and talk the talk,” Moody said. “We [police] have to engage and communicate with the community daily, beyond just answering calls for service.”
Moody addressed what he said is the largest crime-related problem that the Springfield community faces: heroin addiction.
“Almost everything [crime-related] is driven by the heroin epidemic,” Moody said.
In recent years, self-reported heroin use has spiked around the nation, and particularly in Ohio. According to a 2014 study by the Ohio Department of Health [ODH], among Ohio drug users, 5.8 percent named heroin as their drug of choice in 2004; in 2011, that statistic jumped to 12.4 percent. Heroin-related deaths in Ohio have also increased. According to the same ODH report, heroin overdose killed a state-record 680 Ohioans in 2012, up 60 percent from the 408 deaths caused in 2011.
For Moody, this type of substance addiction is not something that can be solved with prison time.
“Addiction is an illness, a health issue,” Moody explained. “And nobody is going to be cured by being locked up.”
Moody said high-level traffickers outside the community in pursuit of large profits drive the epidemic, and that there is not enough affordable, in-home treatment for this type of addiction.
Beyond Ohio, Moody discussed the on-going national War on Drugs. The War on Drugs has been a three-decade long effort by local and federal law-enforcement agencies to end drug abuse and trafficking in the U.S. through punitive means, such as tougher prison sentencing. For some, however, the War has been a failure. A 2013 Rasmussen poll holds that 82 percent of Americans think that the nation is losing the War. Moody said he agrees.
“It hasn’t completely failed, but in most ways it has,” he told one student, referring to what he described as the War’s inadequacy in addressing the addiction problems faced by low-level dealers and users. “We have to do a better job getting the higher-level dealers, the ones who are making the money.”
Moody also spoke on the growing debate over legalizing marijuana in Ohio, and said he is in favor of allowing people to use it for medicinal purposes, but is skeptical of complete legalization for recreational use.
“We, as a society, should be willing to allow people with diseases to use the drug if it’s going to help them,” Moody said. “For me, that’s just compassion.”
In addition to law enforcement, Moody explained what he described as SPD’s function as a community service agency, which includes projects that provide dinners to disadvantaged families at Thanksgiving and donate gifts to materially poor children at Christmas.
“We [SPD] see ourselves as a social service agency,” Moody said. “And our services go well beyond the lights, sirens and foot chases.”