Privacy SOS

Pittsburgh police allegedly keep photo book of methadone clinic patients

According to patients and their advocates, police departments throughout the country routinely station officers outside of methadone clinics and harass patients going in and out, sometimes arresting them on dubious drug related charges often involving informants. John Knefel reports on the problem for Buzzfeed, and includes this disturbing detail:

Both [methadone clinic patient and his boyfriend] Kovach and Ura also say that Pittsburgh Port Authority police keep books full of photographs of patients who attend clinics, a charge the Port Authority denies. The two of them say they saw the book for one of the clinics after responding to a bulletin Port Authority released following an assault on a bus driver. They recognized the suspect from their methadone program, and went to the Port Authority police station to make a statement.

“We knew what clinic [the suspect] went to, so they gave us the book for that clinic and had us look through the book and point the guy out to them,” Ura tells me. Both Ura and Kovach independently described the book they were shown as not only containing mugshots from arrests, but also photographs of patients simply walking around town. “They know what clinic they go to and the whole nine yards,” says Ura. “It encourages the officers to harass anybody that’s on methadone, because they think we’re doing stuff we shouldn’t be doing and not trying to get our life together and not trying to better ourselves.”

Yet another answer to the troubling question, 'If you're not doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?' Trying to get clean from heroin addiction should be encouraged, and certainly isn't 'wrong'. And yet going to a methadone clinic puts a giant surveillance target on your back.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.