Needle-Exchange Workers Accuse Los Angeles Police of Intimidating Participants
Staff of a legal needle-exchange program in Los Angeles and some injection drug users say police have been intimidating participants of the program, which aims to prevent the spread of HIV and other bloodborne diseases, the Los Angeles Times reports. Shoshanna Scholar, executive director of Clean Needles Now, last week complained for the third time to the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners about police harassment. She said police had targeted her site three times in five weeks, carried out six searches, made an arrest for parole violation and confiscated a man's needles. Under Los Angeles Police Department guidelines, police may not target needle-exchange programs with the aim of identifying or arresting people on drug-related offenses. Scholar said the "police presence in itself will keep people from coming," adding that participation in her program has dwindled since police began appearing in September. Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton said the claim that police are targeting such programs is "totally bogus." Bratton said he supports needle-exchange programs but added that police cannot ignore crime around program sites. Capt. Michael Moriarty, patrol division commander of the Hollywood Division, said needle-exchange program sites are not "police-free" zones, but he said he would not want his officers "spinning their wheels running after people with hypodermic needles." Police Commission Board President John Mack at a meeting last week said the department must quickly address the issue, adding that the LAPD's inspector general's office is investigating (Lin/Costello, Los Angeles Times, 11/4).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.