Home > The role of law enforcement officers in drug use prevention within school settings: a guiding document.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (2023) The role of law enforcement officers in drug use prevention within school settings: a guiding document. Vienna: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

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This guiding document primarily aims to improve the effectiveness of pre-existing and ongoing work of Law Enforcement Officers (LEO) involved in substance use prevention in schools. Its intentions are to incite LEO to re-assess their mode of operation and align their work with what the science of prevention suggests doing in such settings. See also, report launch on Youtube [20 minutes].

It does not advocate for actual initiation of LEO in schoolbased prevention if they have not been already engaged or are planning to do so. Furthermore, this guiding document does not prescribe any specific process on how to deal with different scenarios in schools or advocate for any specific intervention to undertake by LEO in such school-based drug prevention. It rather provides an overview of the strategic thinking process that needs to be considered by frontline LEO (or their management) whenever implicated in such activities. By doing so, this guiding document inspires LEO to re-invent their role and open new opportunities for them in prevention. It also strives to better integrate LEO in the larger systems of prevention, bringing them closer to other prevention agents, and to optimize the effectiveness of this prevention system by capitalizing on the strength and weaknesses of each of its agents. The guiding document also encourages areas and modes of evaluation of LEO-led prevention interventions in school settings to foster the potential future availability of such evidence-based packages. The science of prevention, the science of communication, and the science of policing guide this document’s content. This guiding document defines these sciences, looks for an intersection between them, and raises the question as to how this intersection can best be put into practice.

While this guiding document focuses on enhancing the effectiveness of drug use prevention programmes in schools, the underlying scientific prevention principles it portrays in addressing vulnerabilities to support the healthy and safe growth of children makes it applicable for LEO preventing substance use both inside and outside school settings.
This guiding document utilizes the term “children” per the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which refers to all individuals below the age of eighteen years1 , representing most students in schools. However, when it comes to age-appropriate responses, the guiding document uses the age categories of the UNODC/WHO International Standards on Drug use Prevention (also referred to in this document as the “International Standards” for short) that refers to ages based on the transitional milestones of development of the child (infants, toddlers, early childhood, middle childhood, adolescence, etc.)2

1. United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner. Convention on the Rights of the Child [Internet]. 1989

2. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). International Standards on Drug Use Prevention [Internet]. Vienna; 2020

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