The following Op-Ed is by Scott Brand of Inspirations for Youth and Families (IYF).
I agree with the Ohio Police Department’s decision to release private photos of a heroin overdose involving a couple in a car with a baby in the backseat. You can also read the opposing view by Dania Reynolds, a popular blogger for IYF.
Why the police got it right by releasing the heroin overdose pics
I completely get the fact that in today’s society people who abuse drugs have been unfairly stigmatized. And it is time to stop treating them as offenders and start treating them as people who suffer from a disease that is no different than diabetes. I am also a strong proponent of people’s right to privacy – especially young children.
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While I value these core principles, recently I had to waver from them and support the East Liverpool Ohio Police Department’s decision to release controversial and very private photos involving a couple’s heroin overdose. The grim images showed two unconscious adults in the driver and passenger seats after overdosing from heroin. What made the photos equally appalling was the sight of a four-year-old child innocently sitting in the back-seat.
The reason for my ideological shift – in this one instance – was strictly in response to the heroin epidemic that is literally destroying the sheer fabric of our society.
Despite the fact that the East Liverpool Police move reeks from drug stigmatization and invasion of privacy – as the heroin epidemic reaches epic proportions – I am convinced desperate times deserve desperate measures.
The East Liverpool Ohio Police shared the heroin overdose photos which went through social media in an effort to increase awareness of the heroin epidemic’s dire state that has torn apart the lives of children, families, and communities.
Apparently, the police department wanted to stir up a complacent non-drug using public. And their clever method successfully revealed the actual faces of the people behind the heroin epidemic. This visual association allowed many removed from the heroin epidemic for the first time to better understand the sheer gravity of the situation.
A wake-up call for the public to stop heroin epidemic
The police department also sought out to warn our fine nation that as a people we are not doing enough to fight this widening health crisis. Perhaps – in the East Liverpool Police Department’s mind – the photos will succeed in deterring some who are considering heroin use as well as others who are abusing it now.
I agree with the decision to release the images versus merely issuing a static press release. This was both a brilliant and compelling media strategy that shed light on the severity of this public health crisis.
You know the old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Well this is a very true statement. Especially when you use social media to convey the message.
After the images were first posted on the Facebook page. It did not take very long for them to go viral. Just on their very own Facebook page, they received 5,500 comments and 28,986 shares.
A young victim of the heroin overdose
Now having praised the police department’s effort, there was one oversight in their plan and execution. They did not blur out the face of the four-year-old sitting in the car. I can’t see any value by violating the privacy of a little boy. The message would have been just as powerful without identifying the child’s face.
I think Philip Holloway, a CNN legal analyst sums up the incident best. He believes the value of the police department’s decision to share the photos on social media. And thinks the move was well worth the consequences.
“In posting the photos to Facebook, the East Liverpool Police in Ohio performed a service. It showed the hideous face of a crisis in American culture,” said Holloway.
What is your opinion? We would like to know.
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