I talk to Neil Woods, one of Britain’s most successful (ex) undercover police officers.
Neil has authored two fascinating books
about his experiences as an undercover cop turned whistle blower “Good
Cop, Bad War” and “Drugs
Neil’s personal experience as one of
Britain’s most successful undercover officers deserves our respect and
attention; he has played a key role in putting away numerous dealers for a
collective total of over a 1,000 years. He survived the grave personal toll
that brave officers can suffer in their losing fight against drugs gangs.
Having a knife to your throat, or being
stripped naked at gunpoint can take a personal toll on the undercover officers
who have tried to fight a war on drugs that can’t be won. Neil suffers
from Post-Traumatic Street Disorder. Year after year the trade becomes more
violent, as the police are more successful. The drugs war is an arms race.
Police develop new tactics and drug gangs push back. Neil realised that the
escalation by the gangs was a reaction to his work as an effective police
County lines is the latest reaction by
the gangs to that success. Use of children is another innovation – a
result of police success. Not so easy for police to infiltrate using
established means. Gangs see the children as very disposable. That is why
some of the police want to increase the use of juveniles as police informants –
spies. Exposing this has been one of my big campaigns and is now the
subject of legal action by a children’s charity.
Two things changed
Neil’s personal view of the war on drugs. He got to know drug addicts and
started to understand the traumas (often childhood abuse or neglect) that
turned them towards drugs. He also realised that it was a war the police can’t
win, despite all their success. In fact, the successes made things worse in the
Police now talk about
‘disruption’ not reduction. A stable market is less violent. Police often
gather the low hanging fruit of dealers on streets, which thins it out, makes
easier to create monopolies.
Drugs money has caused
escalating violence on the streets and supports other forms of crime. It also
provides the resources to finance endemic corruption within the authorities.
Neil talks about how his instincts saved him from being betrayed by a fellow
officer who had been planted into the police by a powerful gang.
started, the banned drugs have become stronger and cheaper. Neil had to take
drugs on occasion as part of his cover. One packet “smelt like urine from
a glue sniffing cat”. Legislation from the 1980s onwards has moved away from
harm reduction towards a moralising agenda of criminality.
It’s no coincidence
that Brixton Riots happened ten years after Misuse of Drugs Act. The police were
given a war chest of powers that government Ministers expected them to use.
Persecution of black people was driven by drug policy and a clamp down on
cannabis. 90% of stop and search has been for drugs.
The police have been lumbered with this
war on drugs. It’s a huge drain on resources. For example, it’s a big impact on
murder detection rate since declaration of the war on drugs. Despite scientific
and forensic advances, the murder clear-up rate is down.
Society is paying a
big cost for the war on drugs. People in prison cost money. Authorities are
damaged by the corruption of drugs money.
The way to win the War
on drugs is to stop fighting. Regulate them. Treat each drug differently, so
for example with Heroin you go to the doctor.
A recent survey shows that 59% of
people want to decriminalise or regulate cannabis use. That shows how public
understanding is running ahead of the politicians from the two main parties. A
big change is urgently