From all corners of the drugwar: Introducing, an officer transformed

So yesterday, I met an X Undercover Drug Cop! I was afraid and very nervous but I kept remembering the X bit and the fact that he himself had also got messed up on drugs for a bit after the inevitable stress of trying to be many different people finally caught up with him…

This is Peter Bleksley and he also hates the so-called drug war.

BBC Photo 2 PeterB

We met very close to the Shard – cherished memories of “OCCUPY the Media Billionaires” slightly distracting me – hoping that his unique status as now writer and public-speaker, would be another cut in the toxic-tail of punitive prohibition, a term coined by social research friend, Peter McDermott

Peter B had a restless childhood by all accounts, involved with petty crime and truanting from school. So when he got to 16, and it was time to choose a career, his Mum pro-actively invited a Police Officer round to speak with him! That is, to chat about a possible career in the force… He soon became a police cadet and found himself being taught by former military men and taking them very seriously..”I relished the discipline and boundaries they gave that I had never had,” he said. In 1978, Peter was posted to Peckham Police Station and “to my shame found myself victimising and brutalising young black drugs users and other petty criminals.”

A few years later, Peter was promoted to Detective and posted in Kensington, a very different neighbourhood, where many moneyed people lived. There was still crime, lots of it, murder, fraud and some high-end drug dealing. Peter worked hard and was dedicated to his job, “I loved nicking people and sending them to prison.”

“I had come to prominence as a successful young detective and Scotland Yard heard about me. I could see where the money was going in the Force, what with Thatcher and Reagan, in international collaboration calling for an all out war on enemy No 1: Drugs!” He was transferred to Scotland Yard and soon after he became an undercover officer. From arresting lots of drug dealers and living in South London he knew the industry well and was good at ” the high-octane adrenaline-pumping gangster act” as he put it. Still only 26 years old, this was an exciting and interesting part of his journey, so was perfectly happy to go off in some ones car into “enemy” territory. If a criminal was being met in a hotel lobby, it became known that the rendezvous was likely to be with an undercover cop, and so there was a change of strategy.
“I did this job for ten years and eventually negotiated with someone about a 15Kg heroin deal going down in a hotel in Gatwick. The sellers got arrested and were working on the theory that if they killed me, they would kill the evidence so they tried to hire an assassin” to have him murdered.. Then a report detailing his involvement in this case mysteriously disappeared from the back of a Police Car and that report, contrary to force instructions, contained his real name, so “the threat to my life was increased substantially” he comments calmly! He’s told this Hollywood epic before..

Peter was put into the Witness Protection Program where in any one day he could be three different people; Firstly he would be the new to the neighbourhood man who had to be anonymous, in order to be safe within witness protection. Next he would perform whatever undercover role was required of him at work. And occasionally, just occasionally say in the car going to and from work, he could actually be himself He was cut off from his “downtime”, Sunday Lunch at Mums and beers with mates down the pub. While undercover he was often plastered up against a wall by a gun-toting paranoid dealer aggressively searching for wire-taps. “This was daily fair for me..” he states pragmatically.

“So I began drinking to cope with the stress. The constant fear of an assassin’s bullet or bomb, the undercover work and all that went with that became too much’. He had a complete breakdown, and was locked up for 24 days in a secure unit on the first admission. There he received treatment and counselling. “The NHS was brilliant” Peter is keen to acknowledge and when I ask what label he was given he replies ” oh everything from anxiety and depression to schizophrenia!” Peter was put on Stellazine, which stabilised him. His superiors decided it was time for him to leave the National Crime Squad in 1999, and he was returned to a local Police Station.
“There I felt stigmatised as my reputation – both good and bad – went before me.” Peter knew he was getting ill again and was soon medically retired. That was 16 years ago. He missed the adrenaline-rushes, status and sense of self-worth and says he didn’t choose his friends wisely. He got seriously into cannabis and problematically, Coke. He went from enjoyable usage on a Friday evening to it becoming a necessity. His wife kicked him out, rightly so he says and he sought help from a drug agency in Woolwich who were enormously helpful.

Peter’s wife, also a Police Officer and his Mother were there for him: the “door had not been slammed in my face but it was clear I had to stop using.” He was then as is now, also a Father.

“We convinced ourselves that we were Thatchers Storm-Troopers fighting the ‘war on drugs'” but as with increasing numbers of law enforcers, Peter realised there was a desperate need for a rethink..

” I’ve seen the drugs industry from all sides. I’ve nicked international kingpins through to problematic users, and faced the biggest struggle of my life in getting clean. I’ve fought the culture and been part of the culture. I’ve had an almost unique insight. And I realise that things have to change”.

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