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‘You can’t police your way out of this problem’: Former top policeman wants pill testing at festivals

Deborah Knight

A former top police officer says a law enforcement approach to illicit drugs isn’t working and we must consider pill testing at music festivals.

Former Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Palmer wants to see pills screened for deadly substances at festivals to prevent drug-related deaths.

His push comes a week after two young people died from drug overdoses at the Defqon One festival in Western Sydney.

At the same festival, around 700 people sought medical attention and 69 people were caught in possession of drugs.

Mr Palmer tells Deborah Knight we need to “change the nature of the conversation” around illicit drugs because a law enforcement approach just isn’t working.

“We haven’t reduced harms, we haven’t reduced the size of the supply or the demand market, we haven’t done anything about the price (of drugs) except see it go down.

“You can’t… police your way out of this problem. And we need to be smart enough, and courageous enough, to consider and trial new ideas and new ways.”

He says rolling out pill testing at festivals would help save lives and it’s worked in other countries.

“Everything we do ought to be about reducing or minimising the harms to those people who decide, against whatever advice they’re given, to take drugs.

“Our zero-tolerance ought to be a zero-tolerance towards the needless loss of any young lives.”

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