Editorial: Respect for the Law - The Other Casualty of the War on Drugs
Lawmakers of Ancient Rome believed that good laws must be obeyed absolutely. They also believed that any law widely disobeyed by the people was a bad law; not only was it a waste of legal energy, it had the effect of corrupting the law itself.
Why? Because when a particular law is routinely disobeyed by large numbers of people, laws in general become relative, leaving the test of whether a law is reasonable or not up to the individual.
That’s how the last couple of generations have responded to drug laws.
I was at a city nightclub with a group of friends. We started off upstairs, just having a few drinks. Then we went downstairs and set ourselves up in one of the booths at the back of the club. We were just sitting there having a really good time, and I got up to go and dance. As I passed the stairs on the way to the dance floor, I saw boots and then the blue pants of the police coming down.
The current system of NSW Police drug detecting dogs began in early 1999. Fourteen Labrador Retrievers were trained in drug detection, originally for the lead-up to the 2000 Olympic Games. In early 2001, they were reassigned to work with Police Local Area Command units to search people in areas considered to be concentrated areas of drug commerce: trains and train stations, nightclubs, licensed premises and certain public precincts.
Almost immediately, there was a community backlash. Its targeting of public spaces saw it criticised emphatically by community and legal groups. A series of high-profile police operations, under the banner of “Operation Vikings”, drew criticism for unfairly targeting specific social groups, such as the Gay and Lesbian community.