LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

President Trump offers get-tough approach to opioid epidemic

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

Law Enforcement Against Drugs, or LEAD, puts law enforcers in schools to educate K-12 classrooms about drugs, including New Jersey, who seems to be on the cusp of legalizing marijuana.

“Our curriculum has been proven effective, and if it becomes legal, we have to still educate even more, and more intensely,” said Nick Demauro, executive director of LEAD.

At LEAD’s conference, prevention turned to punishment and the president’s three-point opioid initiative and get-tough talk.

“But if we don’t get tough on the drug dealers, we’re wasting our time. Just remember that, we’re wasting our time. And that toughness includes the death penalty,” said President Trump.

No known dealer or trafficker involved in a murder has been executed under a Clinton-era federal law, but the attorney general said he would seek the death penalty wherever appropriate.

The military and 31 states also have death penalty laws. New Jersey’s not among them, but since drug trafficking respects no borders, law enforcers here offered their thoughts on executing drug dealers.

Denville Police Chief Christopher Wagner is a past president of the State Association of Chiefs of Police.

“I think a death penalty case is something that has to be decided on a case-by-case basis depending upon the severity of a crime,” said Wagner.

Charles Mendez’s foundation created the prevention curriculum for LEAD.

“I think that might be sending a message that we’re just going to fight fire with a different fire, and we find that to be troubling,” said Mendez, managing director of the Mendez Foundation.

Dr. John Carnevale served three presidents and four drug czars and founded a public policy firm.

“I can’t imagine what is really intended by it. My personal reaction, I don’t like what I’m hearing about it,” said Carnevale, president of Carnevale Associates.

While some in law enforcement say no to the president’s idea of dealing with drug dealers, the police chief in Saddle Brook says yes.

“Those who should suffer the consequences of serious drug transactions and serious repetitive behavior should be held accountable, and I applaud our president,” said Robert Kugler, chairman of LEAD.

“I think the bar has to be raised,” said Douglas Collier, a former DEA agent.

Don’t ask Collier, a law enforcement liaison in the state Attorney General’s Office, if executing drug dealers might be too drastic.

“I’d like to take you to a parent tonight, because we’re going to lose six people in New Jersey tonight. We lost over 2,200 people last year because of an overdose on drugs. I’d like to take you to a parent tonight and why don’t you ask them that, and that’s what I’d tell you,” Collier said.

While they might differ on how to deal with dealers, there seems to be uniform support for the president’s plan to offer more money for education, awareness and treatment, and to attack the forces over prescribing, trafficking and more that fuel the opioid crisis.