Westmoreland PD Helps Get People Off Drugs
Nashville Tennessean USA TODAY NETWORK -TENNESSEE
Within 48 hours in early November, the Westmoreland Police Department had two residents ask officers for help: help to end their addiction.
And within 48 hours, both individuals entered treatment. One woman was in treatment within 45 minutes. “If you come in and say, ‘I have an issue, I have a problem,’ that’s not a crime — that’s a call for help,” Chief Ray Amalfitano said. Approximately 20 residents have taken advantage of the department’s offer to help get them into treatment from addiction, no questions asked.
Hope to stop ‘Four-corner effect’
Amalfitano said he and the police officers decided to start this program after several residents raised concern about few resources to get people into rehabilitation programs.
“All of these officers are on the same page,” he said. “None of them is going to look down on somebody being an addict or being addicted to something.” After 24 years in law enforcement, the chief has personally watched people come to grips with addiction. He also knows individuals struggling with addiction typically get arrested multiple times.
He calls it a “fourcorner effect:”
❚ person gets arrested
❚ person goes to jail
❚ person learns “more bad stuff” while in jail
❚ person gets out on probation Then it starts over with the person getting arrested again.
“It’s a revolving door,” Amalfitano said. “It doesn’t ever stop.”
But if more people get into treatment, the market for drug sellers will decrease.
“I’m looking at that as a way to fight drugs,” he said.
Help for those who ask, hard on those who sell drugs
He said opioid and methamphetamine addiction are the No. 1 problem in the community. He thinks its because Westmoreland is surrounded by municipalities. “We have 44,000-plus people come through our community daily,” he said. “I feel like the drugs come in from different places and this is a meeting place.”
Those struggling with addiction must first admit they have a problem before police will help connect them to treatment. Police will not ask questions and will not arrest them.
At the same time, the department actively works to find and arrest individuals selling drugs in Westmoreland. “If we capture somebody selling drugs in our community, then we are going to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law,” he said. “We will be very stern and strict on that and (use) every means necessary to get that off our streets.” The Sumner Anti-Drug Coalition and Will Taylor of Tennessee Lifeline Peer Project help the department get people into treatment. The Sumner County Sheriff’s Office also works with the department to combat the selling of illegal drugs.
Westmoreland police will continue to leave the offer of help on the table. “If we have saved that one person, that one life, if we have done nothing else in our career, that right there is worthwhile,” Amalfitano said.
Reach Sumner County reporter Jen Todd at 615575-7143, jtodd1@tennessean. com or on Twitter @jentoddwrites.
Stan Jones of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Babb Center for Counseling Licensed Master Social Worker Lorraine Looney and Westmoreland Police Chief Ray Amalfitano make up a Q&A panel at a town hall meeting at Westmoreland Middle School on Tuesday, May 22. KELLY FISHER, USA TODAY NETWORK – TENNESSEE