Captain Tony Stroup of the Monticello Police Department sat down for an interview this summer to describe his experiences with substance abuse here in White County. He shares his unique perspective in the remainder of the article below.
“I’ve been on the job for fifteen years now; the drug problem has always been there. Recently, we have gone through a period of opioid use and that is pretty dangerous stuff. People start out with a prescription due to an injury or surgery, but then the doctor won’t prescribe it any more. People go out and seek it on the street from others. That’s usually the story that I get from the people I see.
Obviously, everybody's different. Some people get addicted quicker than others. It’s not the stereotype junkie, not the homeless person on the street. They're like me and you, and it just slowly, picks away at their lives. And then before you know it, they have lost their job and everything they care about. They basically used all the people who cared about them. They stole from everybody and lied to everybody.
Many people in the community are trying to get off of drugs. They're never completely out of it, because the people they used to use with always try to get ahold of them and get them back involved. If people do drugs together and one of them goes to jail, as soon as he gets out, they will be contacting him to get back into it. So, when these people get out, they feel like they need to go someplace else, because everyone who will associate with them here is involved in drugs.
It is so easy to become jaded in this work. As a police officer, there are so many days, of the negatives, taking people to jail and being called those names. It's a very abusive atmosphere day-in and day-out. I can be just minding my own business, and people just immediately start to react to me as a police officer giving me that negative attitude right away. It has nothing to do with me. They are triggered by police officers in general because they have had bad experiences.
As police officers, we aren’t going to eliminate opioids or any drug, per se. They are always going to be there. But maybe how we deal with it, and how we police could be a little bit different. Back in the day, it was a big deal to find someone with a bag of marijuana. Now drugs are killing people and tearing their lives apart. It used to be exciting to find the stuff, but now you feel sorry for them. It's not so much an excitement, it's a sigh of sorrow because drugs are tearing people’s lives apart and not just them, but their families.
Because at the end of the day, it's not about throwing people in jail, we want to see them in recovery. We want to see them there for their kids. That's what means the most to me. It's inspiring and awesome to me to hear those success stories about people who get out of the cycle. I want there to be more of those, not the hate and discontent. We are all in this together. I have a job. It would be weird to call it a mission. But, my career is to help people as much as I can.”
Lynn Saylor is the AmeriCorps member working with the United Against Opioid Abuse Initiative alongside the White County United Way. She is a major facilitator of the United Council on Opioids serving White County and a regular contributor to local media.