I think we can all agree that heroin is bad stuff—it's a nasty drug that destroys lives and communities. Opioid use in general has become an epidemic in this county, and there is no doubt that a multi-tiered approach is needed to combat it. However, the war on drugs has been a colossal failure by any logical measure, so bolstering its power and doubling-down on its influence while simultaneously ignoring effective aspects of community engagement is a terrible and destructive idea.
Enter: Sheriff Peyton Grinnell of Lake County, Florida. In the wake of a number of heroin overdoses in the county, he decided his department needed to take a tougher stance on heroin dealers.
So he released this PSA:
What you just watched is a home-made, militarized police force posing in pseudo combat garb, concealing their identity while threatening drug dealers operating in their community. It's a PSA that feels like a hostage video. Sheriff Grinnell's monologue is filled with Neeson-esque lines like:
"Enjoy trying to sleep tonight wondering if tonight’s the night our SWAT team blows your front door of the hinges."
He ties the whole video together with one last, direct threat:
”We’re coming for you...run.”
While you were watching, you may have been enthralled by the not-so-subtle pull back revealing burly men in combat vests, ski masks and sunglasses standing with their hands-crossed. Perhaps the undulating electronic strings stirred something in you, and you rose from your chair and pumped your fist in solidarity with Sheriff Grinnell.
If you did this, at least according to thousands of comments on Twitter and Facebook, you were in the slim minority.
If you instead found yourself in a state of disbelief over the fact that a video like this actually exists and is meant to be taken seriously, and while you were thinking that, you realized that the ominous nature of this PSA, and the ensembles sported were not too dissimilar to some videos ISIS has released, then you were right in line with the consensus opinion.
Turns out the public is not super keen on the aggressive militarization of a local police force, especially when the aesthetic reminds them of a terrorist organization.
This is not the approach that is going to solve the opioid epidemic in this country. We need in-depth community engagement, we need affordable treatment options, we need prescription drug reform and we need to stop vilifying drug addicts and throwing them in jail by the thousands. The problem here is systemic. Aggressive policing is a band aid, it’s not a solution.
The video was posted Friday afternoon and since gone viral for all the wrong reasons, amassing 624k+ views.