Archive for January 9th, 2008

January 9th, 2008

Case Dismissed

Posted in The Job - Comment by 200

Last week the Daily Mail tried to do a hatchet-job on North Wales Chief Constable, Richard Brunstrom. Entitled, "The most idiotic Police Chief in Britain", it sets out to prove, using examples, why the chief is such an embarassment to the police service.

I’m not one to defend senior officers, anyone who has read this blog for any length of time will know that there are very few senior officers in my career I have had any respect for, so you might be surprised to see me defending a Chief Constable. Having said that, I think this blog entry is more an attack on the Daily Mail than a defence of Brunstrom.

The article was sparked by Brunstrom saying that the drug ecstasy was safer than aspirin. Understandably, this has angered the families of those who died taking the drug. The article is heavy on  emotions and light on facts.

Deaths from Ecstasy appear to be in the region of about 48 a year. It’s difficult to find information on the death rate from aspirin &, not being a statistician, I have no idea whether more deaths by aspirin mean it’s more dangerous even though the use of aspirin will be far greater than that of ecstasy; how do you measure danger? A BBC News report in 2001 put the dangerousness of aspirin & paracetomol at 45,000 hospitalisations and between 150 & 210 deaths due to overdose. In the USA in 2002 the amount of deaths due to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin was put at 7,600.

It’s easy to jump up and down in horror at a comment which puts an illegal drug at less danger than an legal one but I’m not so sure the Daily Mail has a case. Just because a person dies on their first use of a drug this doesn’t necessarily mean it is more dangerous than a legal drug available over the counter. Many of the deaths due to Ecstasy have been because the user combined it with other drugs or get themselves dehydrated or indeed over-hydrated and the death is a combination of factors. Are peanuts more dangerous than stairs?

To illustrate just how dangerous Ecstasy is, the Mail goes on to print the photos & stories of 7 teenagers. Interestingly, none of the stories are from the previous year, indeed only 3 of them were since 2000. If you’re going to illustrate the dangerousness of the drug I’d have thought they could have come up with more recent evidence; 3 of the cases were over 10 years old. There are no photographs of any of the hundreds of people who died due to aspirin overdose.

If the Ecstasy issue isn’t enough to prove what a clown Brunstrom is, the Mail goes on to ten more incidents which leave you in no doubt of this chap’s  idiocy. They provide a list of what they call "One blunder after another":

1. He suggested the number of speed cameras in the UK should be tripled.

It may be unpopular among the motoring public but a blunder? There are many people in the road safety lobby who would agree with him.

2. He broke into his own HQ to highlight lax security.

Again, a blunder? Highlighting a weakness by exploiting it is hardly what I’d call a blunder.

3. Proposed a vending machine for needles for heroin addicts outside a police station.

Again, unorthadox perhaps, but don’t all drugs educators support the promotion of healthy drugs use over that which spreads disease and increases the risk of harm (given that the ultimate aim is to reduce drugs misuse). I wouldn’t describe this as a blunder, either.

4. Published pictures of a headless motorbiker without the family’s permission.

Well, maybe not the best decision he’s made, but the photos were only shown at a conference, not published to the mass media.

5. Launched a failed investigation into Tony Blair for allegedly insulting the Welsh, and

6. Spent £4,000 investigating ‘anti-Welsh’ comments by Weakest Link host Anne Robinson.

Okay, I’ll give them those two.

7. Took pleasure in being named an honorary Druid.

Eh? If he’d been made an honorary Muslim or Jew he’d probably have been getting a knighthood.

8. Let colleagues zap him with a 50,000 volt Taser gun.

Blunder? why?

9. Used the word ‘queer’ to refer to activities by homosexuals in public lavatories.

I’ll give them that one too.

10. Directed the traffic in a gorilla mask for a dare.

Er, this was when he was a PC many years ago.

So Daily Mail, there may be lots of reasons why Brunstrom is an idiot, but you’ve got a long way to go before your evidence for the prosecution is accepted.