(Chicago) – White House Drug Policy Director R. Gil Kerlikowske and Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy were among the high-level policy and law enforcement leaders who met in Chicago recently for a seminal task force meeting to discuss the science of substance use disorders and implications for police and public safety.
The intensive two-day event, hosted by the Center for Health and Justice at TASC and held November 19-20, brought together prominent addiction neuroscientists, policy experts, and law enforcement leaders representing jurisdictions from California to Maryland. Weaving together science, policy, and practical experience, the presentations and discussions focused on the science of addiction and behavioral management in conjunction with police theory, existing police practices and policies, and opportunities for systemic interventions and action.
The Task Force is a component of the Justice Leaders Systems Change Initiative (JLSCI), which combines criminal justice training and systems change to achieve improved public safety, public health, reduced recidivism, and cost savings. The Police Practice Training Initiative and the Task Force are part of a larger criminal justice reform initiative funded by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).
In addition to Kerlikowske and McCarthy, speakers included:
- Pamela Rodriguez, President and CEO of TASC and its Center for Health and Justice
- Benjamin Tucker, Deputy Director of State, Local, and Tribal Affairs for ONDCP
- Timothy Condon, PhD, TASC’s Chief Science Advisor
- Redonna Chandler, PhD, Chief of the Services Research Branch of the National Institute on Drug Abuse
- Robert Schwartz, MD, Director of the Friends Research Institute
- John Firman, Director of the Research Center of the International Association of Chiefs of Police
- Bruce Kubu, Deputy Director of Research for the Police Executive Research Forum
- Melody Heaps, President Emeritus of TASC
“This is a groundbreaking event, convening some of the top minds in the country in both addiction science and law enforcement,” said Rodriguez. “For years, we at TASC have experienced tremendous impact in bridging the criminal justice system with community-based drug treatment, most often through partnerships with courts, probation, and reentry. We know the critical importance of intervening earlier in the system—at the point of law enforcement and diversion programs—and we are grateful to ONDCP and every leader in the room for bringing their expertise to this effort.”
Hennepin County (MN) Sheriff Rich Stanek, president of the Major County Sheriffs Association, lauded the value of the meeting’s content and discussions. “I greatly appreciated the opportunity to learn more about addiction and what we, as professional law enforcement officers, can do collectively to intervene with people who need help and improve safety in our communities,” he said.
Training curricula and conferences will be developed for all levels of law enforcement—patrol officers to CEOs—expanding their knowledge of the science and treatment of addiction to improve police practice.
“There’s much more to come,” added Rodriguez.
The Chicago-based Center for Health and Justice at TASC is a national public policy group focused on criminal justice and health issues.