Meth, M, Darwin, and Legislation
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by Josh Lee
"September 7th is the last day. All who believe in Jesus will go to hell. Because if you truly knew God. You would know that he doesn't know anyone but ME. His only true son. The ANTICHRIST! There are many who claim to be the anti christ when the last day is near, why??"

These are the words of a friend I grew up with, went to church with, may have had a childhood crush on, who is now a meth addict in relapse, near to being homeless (again) and the child of two parents who have given up trying to get him help. Let's call him M. I won't get into the other posts about him stabbing himself in the foot "like Jesus".

Now when I saw M's post in my Facebook feed, given that there's a date and the statement of a "last day" I didn't know for sure that it was a suicide threat, and I didn't have to. We're told that if we see something to say something. Well I tried, and the law prevented anyone from listening.

After discussing the matter with mutual friends that also grew up with M, I called the Honolulu Police Department to request a welfare check. And I got shot down three times by three different operators.

"Do you have an address?"
"I'm sorry I don't. But I have a phone number."
"We can't trace a phone without evidence. Do you have photos of drug paraphernalia in use?"
"I'm sorry I don't."
"What evidence do you have that this individual is in a compromising situation?"
I don't even have energy to type my answer to that one.

And yet, at the end of each call, I was told that, "I'm sorry we can't just send officers out to comb the island looking for your friend who may be high and or a risk to himself."

I get that, I do. But every time some celebrity kills themselves, everyone is in an uproar about "someone must have known", "someone could have done something!"

As I found out tonight, that's easier said than done. I understand that we all have civil liberties that must be respected by law enforcement. But when people ask why no one stopped a mass shooter, la Elliot Rodger, the truth is that the law prevents us from doing so. It was only after my forty five minutes on the phone with operators (that I would not want handling any emergency call of mine) that I remembered the stories about Rodger's parents requesting welfare checks on him. Only for the Santa Barbara police to find a polite if somewhat socially awkward young man. His weapons were stashed away, out of sight, and it is against the law to search a residence without a warrant. And social media posts, Instagram messages, and FaceTime conversations allegedly do not constitute concrete evidence of intent (at least not to the Honolulu Police Department).

Is M less deserving of care because he's semi-transient and meth has deprived him of any close friends who may know his address? Is it okay for him to end his life either by choice or overdose? Maybe it's just Darwin's law at work and the weakest of us will not survive.

For the record I do understand why the police can't track his phone in this situation, why they must catch him in the act, and why my screenshots don't count as evidence of harmful behavior. But the system of order is somewhat outdated in its understanding of how people communicate and conduct business in the digital age. Extremists often communicate on shady backalley forums. The suicidal might reach out in a desperate Facebook post. And many of the above are living in situations where obtaining long term address isn't possible. But all of them have smartphones with access to the internet. So shouldn't we consider an IP Address to be as searchable as a geographic address?

In the same way that technology is changing the way we buy groceries, we can't deny that it's changing the way law enforcement will save lives. It's time for legislation to get the hell up to speed.

I saw something. I said something. And nothing happened. I understand why. But you'd best believe I'll remember this next time a celebrity kills themselves or a psychopath shoots up a club.

As for M, well, I just hope someone pays his cellphone bill so he can have a lifeline to the world outside his crack pipe.
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