Within the conceptual framework of this research, we will elaborate on the subject of AIDS education in law enforcement. Due to the nature of their occupation, law enforcement officers are engaged in some activities that increase their exposure to AIDS; among people, they regularly have to contact with are drug addicts, prostitutes and other ‘risk groups’ that most other people do not frequently have contacts with. (Lambrou, p.77) Therefore, AIDS education is of primary importance to law enforcement officers and should be promoted and sponsored by this particular group. In this report, we will discuss AIDS at large, to be followed by detailed discussion of AIDS-related issues in law enforcement.
A decade into the AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) epidemic, we have witnessed a terrible cost in human suffering. The challenge of AIDS has mobilized resources and contributed to advances in biomedical science. The effect of AIDS on the polarization of social and political forces has also helped to accentuate the already existing forces for change in morality and social science.
AIDS education in this situation is a requirement; it is especially significant for the representatives of law enforcement, police officers being the most applicable example.
The law enforcement officers precisely can assist participants in developing the social skills and a familiar language for the negotiation and practice of safer, non-risky behaviors that make law enforcement agencies and its representatives aware of the AIDS problem. (Adams, p. 127) It is apparent that drug problem and a related increase in AIDS risk negatively affects law enforcement officers.
In addition to homicide and assault, law enforcement officers may be affected disproportionately by the crime committed by users seeking to fund their habits. National Crime Victimization data show that African Americans are more likely than whites to be the victims of robbery, burglary, and theft. All of these crimes tend to be financially motivated and can produce funds for the purchase of drugs. (Remington, p. 43)
Few are surprised to hear that criminal offending and victimization are concentrated in very poor (and very segregated) neighborhoods. More surprising to many may be research indicating that middle-class and near-poor African Americans bear much greater losses from financially-motivated crimes than whites or African Americans at any other income level. (Lauritsen, p. 111) While the poorest African Americans suffer a high number of these types of crimes, middle-class and near-poor African Americans lose more on average from thefts, robberies, and burglaries.
The dynamics of the illegal drug market, combined with the reality of racial and socioeconomic segregation, suggest an explanation for this. (Lambrou, p.101) Though non-poor African Americans who can leave poor ghettoes do so, many simply relocate to segregated areas on the periphery of concentrated pockets of poverty. Those who manage to leave areas of concentrated poverty are sometimes perilously close to slipping back into poverty, and many end up moving back into the very poor neighborhoods they tried to escape. Thus, poor drug users who seek to purchase drugs that are readily available in the poorest communities may rely on theft, burglary, and robbery of middle-class and near-poor African Americans who conveniently live close to, but not in, the poorest communities.
In addition to suffering the problems that flow from crime associated with the drug trade, law enforcement officers are likely to suffer from the public health problems associated with drug use itself. For example, AIDS is increasingly becoming a serious health problem for African-American women. Because so many African-American women are family heads in impoverished African-American communities, the collective health problems of African-American women seriously compromise the social organization of poor, minority communities.
The deadly symbiotic relationship between intravenous drug use and AIDS presents many difficulties for law enforcement officers that are worth detailing. Intravenous drug users comprise more than 30% of the individuals with AIDS, and the risk of HIV transmission is exacerbated when intravenous drug users engage in high-risk sex. Research shows that crack cocaine smokers are more likely to engage in unprotected sex than are powder cocaine users.
Due to specifics of their job, law enforcement officers might have casual contacts with some of the people they have to see while at work. As already mentioned, most of those people are a high-risk group when it comes to AIDS spread. Educating police officers about basics of AIDS as well as using prevention it is going to help significantly in reducing the number of police officers that become victims of this deadly disease.
Of course, drug users is the most serious problem for police officers. Some women engage in prostitution for money to support drug habits, and some engage in more direct barter arrangements in which sex is traded for crack. Both practices increase the risk of HIV transmission and other sexually transmitted diseases, which increasingly are resistant to traditional treatment methods. The combination of sexually transmitted disease and drug use by women exposes their unborn children to serious health risks as well. (Lauritsen, p. 136)
In addition to being connected with severe crime problems and diminished community public health, prevalent drug use in poor neighborhoods contributes to the breakdown of community social organization by exacerbating existing social dislocations such as family disruption and high unemployment. Poor communities that are weakly organized simply do not have adequate social buffers to absorb the problems potentially created by widespread and frequent drug use.
For example, because drug use makes it more likely that a parent will neglect her child, higher levels of drug use among a community’s adults likely contributes to lower levels of supervision of the entire neighborhood’s children. Moreover, drug use and drug addiction are likely to make unemployment rates worse. Excessive illegal drug use is associated with sub-optimal job performance and sporadic job attendance, two factors that can naturally lead to an employee’s termination.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the presence of individuals “strung out” on drugs generates feelings of frustration and resentment among law enforcement officers. (Lambrou, p.114) Resentful, frustrated, and potentially fearful community residents may withdraw from community life, affecting community social organization in two important ways. First, withdrawal affects the structural components of community organization. When neighbors stay out of each other’s way, community guardianship is reduced, creating greater opportunities for criminal activity.
Second, withdrawal affects community organization by diminishing important friendship networks among adults. These networks are critical to the transmission of community norms–especially law-abiding ones–among a community’s adults and, perhaps most importantly, between adults and children. The inability of adults to transmit law-abiding norms to children in a neighborhood makes it more difficult for the community to settle on common values. Thus, by contributing to neighborly withdrawal, drug use in a community can facilitate cultural disorganization.
Severe legal sanctions that lead to the removal of law-breakers from the community are akin to leaving the neighborhood. Indeed, this reasoning suggests that victimized law-abiding citizens should welcome state enforced distinctions between law-abiding and law-breaking citizens. The strength of the preceding argument obviously depends on the probability of incarceration for drug offending as well as the length of the sentence.
Drug offending reduction would have a profound effect on the law enforcement officers, as the biggest danger regarding AIDS comes from contact with drug addicts affected by the disease. Police officers would have benefited greatly from such reduction; moreover, they could have concentrated their efforts regarding crime reduction and AIDS education alike on the remaining lawbreakers.
However, law-abiders can hope to gain other more long-term benefits from enforcement of strict drug laws in addition to temporary physical separation from lawbreakers. (Remington, p. 80) The theory of community social organization indicates that implementation of harsh drug laws could lead to higher levels of neighborhood social organization and, consequently, less crime.
It is apparent that drug-law enforcement has reached an all-time high. In 1993, drug offenders accounted for about one-quarter of all prison and jail incarcerations, compared to 8.8% a decade earlier. Racial minorities bear the brunt of law enforcement efforts targeted at illegal drug use and trafficking. Police officers are adversely affected by their ignorance of the basic facts about AIDS and people who may potentially have this disease (more probable than other groups). Thus, AIDS education program should be developed for each regional law enforcement center to negate the effects of the disease.
AIDS education for police officers will need to address specific problems related to peculiarities of their occupation. For instance, they will need to be taught how to act in a situation when they have close contact with drug addicts, especially when it comes to a situation when the later is in a condition when they are ready to do anything to obtain their drugs. Also, they will need to know the basics of AIDS prevention and all the subtle aspects of the disease.
As the numbers of criminals incarcerated for drug offenses has increased over time, the racial gap in the demographics of prisoners has widened. The analysis of Bureau of Justice Statistics data is illustrative. These data indicate that incarceration for drug offending of youth with less than a high school education has increased from 60 in 100,000 in 1979 to 800 in 100,000 in 1991. The same rates for whites with a high school education increased from 6 in 100,000 in 1979 to 20 in 100,000 in 1991.
High rates of imprisonment of young men and women translate into many broken families in the communities. It is difficult to measure how family ties and connections and individual psyches may be devastated when family members and close friends are removed from communities. Although quantification of emotional harm is practically impossible, some judgments about how high incarceration levels affect the vitality of families, the life chances of children left behind, and the economic circumstances of poor communities are possible. (Lauritsen, p. 202)
Most drug offenders will not remain in prison forever, and we should expect some of the negative financial consequences that families suffer when a contributor is sent away to prison to be alleviated, if only in part when the offender is released. However, the negative consequences to the community are not likely to be remedied simply by the release of drug offenders. In fact, freedom of convicted drug offenders back into their communities may worsen the social organization of poor communities, even while the convict’s return may improve the financial situation of his family.
The vast majority of formerly incarcerated men return to their homes in the inner city, where job prospects for everyone already are glum, even if they are aware of better job prospects elsewhere. In 1993 the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated the unemployment rate in central cities to be 8.2%, compared to 6.2% in suburbs of central cities and 6.5% in the balance of the country; however, researchers have documented unemployment rates as high as 60% in some hyper-poverty areas in central cities. (Lambrou, p.151)
Of course, legitimate job prospects for ex-convicts are likely to be worse than the already weak opportunities for inner-city residents. Few people with the typical convict’s credentials would be competitive in today’s service-oriented economy, which emphasizes educational attainment and training. Thus, a released convict likely will have even fewer employment opportunities than he had before he was imprisoned, so he will inevitably contribute to the already high rates of unemployment in the central cities when he returns home–unemployment that erodes community social organization.
One might even predict that many families would be better off once an offender is released because the newly-released offender can contribute to his family financially, or in other ways, as he was not able to do in prison. Notwithstanding the fact that the unemployed released convict may be able to enhance his family’s welfare when he returns home, it is important to see that the release of convicted drug offenders back into poor communities has the potential to erode a community’s social organization even if the proportion of unemployed individuals in the community is essentially unchanged. (Remington, p. 99)
Educating police officers about all potential dangers of AIDS as well as about means of prevention this disease may serve a twofold purpose: first of all, law enforcement officers will be able to protect themselves from AIDS, also, they will be able to educate those people that they have to deal with on regular basis while performing their job duties.
Adams, Jad AIDS; the HIV myth. New York, St. Martin’s Press .
Lambrou, Evan C. AIDS: scare or scam? New York, Vantage Press .
Lauritsen, John. The AIDS war; propaganda, profiteering, and genocide from the medical-industrial complex. New York, Asklepios, 1993.
Remington, Dennis W., and Barbara W. Higa. Back to health; a comprehensive medical and nutritional yeast control program. [Provo, Utah] Vitality House International [1994,].
Young, Ian. The AIDS dissidents; an annotated bibliography. Metuchen, N.J., The Scarecrow Press, 1993.
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