Home > Police support for harm reduction policies and practices towards people who inject drugs. Modernising drug law enforcement report 1.

Monaghan, Geoffrey and Bewley-Taylor, Dave (2013) Police support for harm reduction policies and practices towards people who inject drugs. Modernising drug law enforcement report 1. London: International Drug Policy Consortium.

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The objective of this project, led by the International Drug Policy Consortium, with the participation of the International Security Research Department at Chatham House and the International Institute for Strategic Studies, is to collate and refine theoretical material and examples of new approaches to drug law enforcement, as well as to promote debate amongst law enforcement leaders on the implications for future strategies.

Key Points:
• Many police services have long played an important role in the protection and promotion of various aspects of public health – the primary role of police officers is to protect life and property.
• On their appointment police officers swear or affirm to uphold the laws of their countries including those which directly or indirectly speak to the protection of public health, fundamental human rights and the promotion of health related programmes and interventions.
• Police services from around the world have engaged with a range of harm reduction interventions incorporated within the WHO, UNODC, UNAIDS ‘comprehensive package for the prevention, treatment and care of HIV among [people who inject drugs (PWID)]’, including needle and syringe programmes and opioid substitution therapy (OST).
• Some police services also engage in good practice relative to the operation of drug consumption rooms, drug overdose prevention and drug referral schemes.
• Evidence shows that harm reduction interventions are cost effective, produce positive public health outcomes, and in some cases lead to reductions in drug related criminal activity.
• In some countries police services remain antagonistic towards harm reduction interventions and often operate contrary to national laws and rights-based treaties.
• Chief police officers need to ramp up, and in many case initiate, engagement with a full range of harm reduction interventions relating to people who inject drugs and work to change related laws where necessary.
• Embedding harm reduction principles within police service training curricula can bring about positive and beneficial change in policing attitudes towards people who inject drugs.
• The proper exercise of police discretion will also help to achieve positive and beneficial change and engender support for harm reduction programmes.
• Police service performance indicators should, where possible, support the broader agenda of public health.

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