Fact: All of our schools have drugs in them. Sounds kind of scary, but it is a reality and something school officials and law enforcement need to deal with on a daily basis. It is a small problem compared to the drugs in our communities, but something we have to address, not ignore.
During my law enforcement career, I have had many instances where drugs and drug paraphernalia were displayed to me by school officials for purposes of showing what they had confiscated from students. Of course, it's legal for school officials to seize the contraband, but not for them to keep it. These items are illegal to possess or acquire because: One, they are illegal, or two, they are illegal because they are connected to a crime. Schools must turn them over to law enforcement.
Trumbull County schools are by far not the only schools facing drug problems but in many instances, including in our communities, schools are reluctant to seek assistance from law enforcement. I know you are probably asking yourself why? Remember, schools, just like law enforcement, are a service industry that rely heavily on taxpayer support. We want the community to see only the good and not the bad things, even though the good always outweighs the bad. Schools fear heavy handedness by law enforcement but remember that I said the drug problems in schools are small.
Generally, law enforcement can simply respond to a school's request for assistance. We can take custody of the drugs seized, document what occurred and let the school render discipline in accordance with its policies. Many school policies are more severe than what a student would face in juvenile court. What we can't do in law enforcement is take the drugs from the school and not write a report. Writing reports is more than 50 percent of our job and there is good reason for doing it. Reports not only document what occurred from the victim, suspects or officer's perspective, but they protect the integrity of the law enforcement officer. Just because we are the police doesn't mean we can have drugs in our possession and not report it.
Law enforcement likes to arrest big drug dealers, but we also have small dealers and abusers in our communities whom we cannot simply ignore. All of us (schools and families) must stop turning a blind eye to the drug problem. Whether it affects the perception of how someone feels about a school or how someone feels about their neighbor, concealing the problem can have dire consequences.
Let's agree that we have to have a better relationship, a common understanding on how to deal with the problem the best way. We (law enforcement) will agree that arresting everyone is not always the answer to the problem, but keeping a record of someone's behavior in school and in law enforcement is required. It's not a secret that we have a drug problem - let's face it and deal with it as a community.
Lt. Jeff Orr