Staff members of a Los Angeles needle exchange agency called Clean Needles Now are accusing police officers of intimidating users of a long-standing, lawful program to get dirty needles off the street, says the Los Angeles Times. Director Shoshanna Scholar complained that her site had been targeted by police three times in a five-week period, resulting in six searches, an arrest for a parole violation, and the confiscation of one man’s needles.
“The police presence in itself will keep people from coming. Just their presence is enough,” said Scholar, who said participation in her program has declined significantly since police began showing up in mid-September. Police Commission President John W. Mack said the department must quickly address the issue. Police Chief William Bratton said it is “totally bogus” to say that police are targeting needle exchanges. Bratton said he supports needle exchange programs, but said the department could not ignore crime problems around needle exchange programs. A patrol commander said the 14 officers near the site on recent day were mostly recruits on a high-visibility foot beat to deter crime.