Updated: Jul 6
With the announcement of four arrests related to the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, drug dealers everywhere are establishing new standards. “Be careful who you sell to.” Although this has long been the mantra for those engaging in the sale of illegal narcotics, being careful used to mean making every effort to ensure the buyer was not an undercover cop or an informant wearing a wire. Now, drug dealers have to worry about selling their product to the “wrong person” even if that person is not a law enforcement representative. Enter Philip Seymour Hoffman. The wrong person.
Apparently, the New York City Police Department felt compelled to follow every lead and track down those responsible for selling Hoffman the heroin he overdosed on. As a retired law enforcement officer who has conducted thousands of investigations, I am fine with that. Drug dealers should be in jail. All of them. But trust the detective in me on this one, not every overdose victim’s case gets the same amount of attention as an Oscar-winning actor who poked a needle full of heroin into his own arm. Just ask the family of the latest junkie NYPD pulled out of an alley, dead, with a syringe still hanging from HIS arm. What kind of investigation did that prompt? A cursory canvass of the neighborhood? “Excuse me. Did anyone see anything?” No? Case closed—moving on to the next case. Because after all, the “victim” made a choice to inject his own body with poison.
Am I pointing an accusatory finger at NYPD, alleging the Hoffman case received special treatment? Not at all. Having spent a career working for a municipal government, I fully understand the concept of fecal gravity. When city leaders, or those high in the police department’s chain-of-command, repeatedly must answer the media’s question, “What are you doing to solve this case?” shit does indeed run downhill. It lands squarely on the back of the poor detective unfortunate enough to be assigned the case.
So if I’m not blaming NYPD, I must be blaming the national news media for their fixation on the Hoffman case, right? Wrong. In our quest for answers, perhaps we should turn to the cartoon character Pogo who showed remarkable insight into human nature when he said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
We, as a society, are to blame for never-ending news coverage of the asinine antics, inglorious misfortunes, and self-inflicted maladies of the rich and famous. Why? Because we continually tune in, blog about, moan about, speculate about, and steadfastly refuse to stop talking about the latest scandal. We simply refuse to let a story die until we are good and ready. Unfortunately for the aforementioned junkie, we don’t care enough about him to demand justice or keep that story alive in the news.
Am I saying celebrities are evil and don't deserve an honest investigation into their deaths? Absolutely not. What I am saying is that our society places far too much importance on the lives of some while assigning virtually no value to others.
Joplin. Hendrix. Belushi. Houston. The list goes on and on. All tragic. All too young to die. All with so much to offer. But for every Cory Monteith, there are three or five or twenty addicts who die unnoticed deaths. All tragic. All too young to die. All with so much to offer.
At least Hoffman’s death has once again made addiction a social topic. What are the signs? What can we do? What SHOULD we do? Meanwhile, drug dealers everywhere are revising their “how to” manuals. Just beneath undercover cops in the section titled “People Not to Sell To” is a new entry. Oscar-winning actors.
Rest in peace Philip Seymour Hoffman. We were lucky to witness your immense talent on the big screen. We will be even luckier if we don’t miss the big picture.