Middletown police chief: Arrest addicts who overdose in public

Should police arrest addicts who OD in public?
Posted at 7:56 AM, Mar 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-27 08:30:32-04

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio -- Middletown Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw said he thinks people who overdose on heroin in public are "getting a free pass."

Muterspaw told WCPO media partner the Journal-News he believes those addicts should be arrested immediately.

He said the number of overdoses in his community have delayed police response times and sometimes create a public panic, as more people overdose in fast-food restrooms and business parking lots.

"The squad arrives on the scene, takes them to the emergency room, they live and they come out and do it again," he said.

It's a recurring problem, Muterspaw said, and it leaves addicts with "no accountability."

RELATED: Heroin use overwhelms Ohio's foster care system

He said he'd like to see those people charged with inducing panic, then withdraw the charge if they get treatment for their addiction.

"Jailing drug addicts isn’t the answer... We have to force them into treatment," he told the Journal-News.

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones said he believes people who overdose aren't even afraid of death, so trying to scare them with jail wouldn't mean much.

Besides, he said he doesn't have room to house them.

"I don't need to fill the jail up with heroin users and people who smoke pot," he said. "It won't work. People get out of my jail and shoot up in the parking lot. Getting arrested just isn't something they care about. I call it 'happy talk.' It may make people feel better, but it just doesn’t work."

Jones said "there is no cure right now," but he thinks catching potential users early and helping them to avoid addiction is a solution.

FULL COVERAGE: Tri-State's heroin epidemic

The battle against heroin is "eating (Middletown's) public safety services alive," City Manager Doug Adkins said. City and county EMS crews had responded to more than 325 overdoses this year as of March 6.

Adkins estimated as much as 90 percent of Middletown's public safety services are connected to fighting heroin, and that commitment takes away from police officers and firefighters completing other responsibilities.

There's a lot of frustration with the current system, Muterspaw said, and a new approach is needed.

"It’s like 'Groundhog Day' around here," Muterspaw said. Middletown police have made 185 arrests so far this year connected to the opioid epidemic.

Read what else Muterspaw about this at the Journal-News.