1st Edition

Drug Law Enforcement, Policing and Harm Reduction Ending the Stalemate

Edited By Matthew Bacon, Jack Spicer Copyright 2023
    330 Pages 6 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    330 Pages 6 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The policing of drugs is an intriguing, complex, and contentious domain that brings into sharp focus the multifaceted nature of the police role and has farreaching consequences for health, crime, and justice. While research on drugs policing has historically been surprisingly sparse, fragmented, and underdeveloped, the field has recently become a burgeoning area of academic study, influenced by contemporary trends in policing practices, changes in drug policy, and wider social movements. This book makes a much-needed interdisciplinary and international contribution that engages with established and emerging areas of scholarship, advances cutting-edge debates, and sets an agenda for future directions in drugs policing.

    Drug Law Enforcement, Policing and Harm Reduction is the first edited collection to devote its attention exclusively to drugs policing. It brings together a range of leading scholars to provide a deep and thorough account of the current state of knowledge. In addition to academic analysis, authors also include serving police officers and policymakers, who have influenced how drugs policing is framed and carried out. Together, the contributors draw on a diverse set of empirical studies and theoretical perspectives, with the thread running throughout the book being the concept of harm reduction policing. With accounts from various countries, localities, and contexts, topics covered include the (in)effectiveness and (un)intended consequences of the ‘war on drugs’, attempts to reform drugs policing, and the role of partnerships and policy networks. The broader theme of inequality lies at the heart of this collection.

    An accessible and compelling read, this book will be of interest to academics and students of criminology, public health, and social policy, especially those researching policing, drug policy, and harm reduction. It also offers valuable insights and practical guidance for professionals working in the drugs field.

    Drug law enforcement, policing and harm reduction: An introduction  Matthew Bacon and Jack Spicer  1.Harm reduction policing: Conceptualisation and implementation Matthew Bacon and Jack Spicer  2.More harm than good: A review of the English language literature on the policing of drug possession Charlie Lloyd  3.Drugs, race, and defunding the police: Daring to dream Benson Egwuonwu, Habib Kadiri, and Michael Shiner  4.Symbolic drugs policing: Conceptual development and harm reduction opportunities Ross Coomber, Matthew Bacon, Jack Spicer, and Leah Moyle  5.Policing cryptomarkets and the digital war on drugs James Martin, Ian Warren, and Monique Mann  6.Policing drugs in the Caribbean Matthew Louis Bishop and Dylan Kerrigan  7.Policing of drugs in Scotland: Moving beyond the stalemate to redesigning the chess board Maria Fotopoulou and Elizabeth Aston  8.Treading the paths of drug diversion Wojciech Spyt and Jason Kew  9.'Another tool in the toolbox': An investigation of a drug diversion programme in a Danish police precinct Tobias Kammersgaard, Esben Houborg, Thomas Friis Søgaard, and Sidsel Schrøder  10.Beyond harm reduction policing Katherine Beckett, Monica Bell and Forrest Stuart  11.Law enforcement and public health partnerships: Opportunities and perils Evan Anderson and Ruth Shefner  12.From opponents to ‘interested’ partners? A case study of police and harm reduction service collaboration Esben Houborg, Tobias Kammersgaard and Thomas Friis Søgaard  13.Leading local change: Police and Crime Commissioners and drug policy Meg Jones and Ben Twomey Conclusion: From stalemate to progress Matthew Bacon and Jack Spicer



    Matthew Bacon is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Sheffield.

    Jack Spicer is a Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Bath.



    ‘This book is a timely and contemporary contribution to the highly dynamic and disputed area of drugs policing. It provides a much-needed examination of the conceptualizations and application of "harm reduction policing" as a distinct and alternative policing model. The contributions are an excellent collection of approaches, views, and theories to think about the current state and potential future of policing of drug use and markets'.

    Alissa Greer, Assistant Professor in Criminology, Simon Fraser University

    ‘Everyone wants to minimize the harms of drugs and policing. But how? This book gives us answers. It is an outstanding contribution at the intersection of addiction research, drug studies, criminology, and criminal justice. It will appeal to people on the left, the right, and between'.

    Scott Jacques, Professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology, Georgia State University

    ‘This extraordinary edited volume provides the most extensive collection of research on harm reduction policing to date. The book is well-written and leads the reader on a journey through some of the most important research on the topic. This book should be on the shelf of all academics, researchers, and practitioners interested in drugs policing, and is well suited for undergraduate and graduate coursework'.

    Aili Malm, Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, California State University

    ‘This timely book makes a vital contribution to the drug policy literature by giving a comprehensive and detailed account of a burgeoning area of study: police-led changes to drug policy and practice. In the UK, the 2011 Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, which created offices of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), has afforded variation in local drug policing practice and enabled force areas to develop policing priorities shaped by local needs and priorities. A key development has been the increasing use of diversionary methods by the police to channel drug users away from the criminal justice system and into forms of support. Although becoming more widespread, there is a limited evidence base as to how these strategies were formulated, how they have been implemented and the ways in which they have been evaluated. This book addresses this gap. In doing so, it expertly brings together key thinkers and doers in the field. It advances knowledge by the array of contributors nationally and internationally as well as those working across research, policy and practice. It is edited by two important voices in the field, both of whom make telling contributions to the work. It will be of interest for researchers and practitioners in criminal justice, public health drug policy and beyond'.

    Mark Monaghan, Reader in Criminology and Social Policy, University of Loughborough

    ‘Where drugs policing debates are filled with cliches from both libertarians and warriors, this invaluable collection brings light rather than heat to the field. Anyone with an interest in how the harms associated with drugs, with policy, and with law enforcement can be reduced and managed will benefit from reading the diverse and important analyses contained here. Cutting across disciplines and academic/practitioner divides, and with an international outlook, this book is required reading'.

    Karim Murji, Professor of Social Policy and Criminology, University of West London

    ‘"Harm reduction policing" may sound to some like an oxymoron. This precious volume demonstrates – with fascinating case studies, provocative insights and creative theoretical formulations – not just the negative consequences of punitive drugs policing but also the ways in which "harm reduction" makes just as much sense for policing as it does for drug use'.

    Ethan Nadelmann, Founder and Former Executive Director (2000-2017) of the Drug Policy Alliance

    ‘This book provides a comprehensive overview of what we have learned with harm reduction and a valuable guide to continue walking down the path created by the reforms to drug policies and policing in several countries around the world'.

    Eduardo Paes Machado, Professor of Sociology, Federal University of Bahia

    ‘Drugs present a uniquely troubling challenge for the police. At one extreme, in the Philippines the police have carried out thousands of extra-legal executions of drug dealers and users. At the other extreme, there are police forces in Western Europe and North America that see their primary role as helping persuade drug users to enter treatment. This entirely original collection of essays is the first effort to survey the many drug policing reform efforts that incorporate the insights of harm reduction that have been so influential in other areas of drug policy. It will inform both policymakers and researchers'.

    Peter Reuter, Professor of Public Policy and Criminology, University of Maryland

    ‘This outstanding edited collection brings together a rich array of material on drugs policing. Absent hysterical hyperbole, chapter authors summarise research and practice experience and consider how drugs policing could be reformed. The multidisciplinary and global contributions provide a comprehensive one-stop-shop for understanding the relationships between policy, police practices directed towards illicit drugs, and harm reduction. I can highly recommend this important volume to students, scholars, practitioners, and anyone interested in reconfiguring drugs policing to reduce harms'.

    Alison Ritter AO, Professor and Director of the Drug Policy Modelling Program, University of New South Wales

    ‘Bacon and Spicer have assembled an outstanding collection. The role of policing in drug control and in the enforcement of drug laws is surprisingly under-researched, despite its centrality to drug policy. By curating a set of contributions that are international in scope, empirically-oriented and theoretically-engaged, Bacon and Spicer have produced a book that will undoubtedly prove influential, both intellectually and in terms of policy reform, for many years to come'.

    Toby Seddon, Professor of Social Science, UCL

    ‘This collection is welcome for many reasons but not least are that it really understands the potential of a harm reduction perspective, it reminds us that "policing" should be flexible and enabling rather than discriminating and disabling, it contextualises drugs policing locally and globally from the legacy of colonialism to the implications of digital markets, it provides evidence that policing the public should also be about the good health of the public, and finally, it’s highly original and long overdue!’

    Nigel South, Professor of Sociology, University of Essex

    ‘Harm reduction policing is an idea whose time has come. In this fascinating book, Bacon and Spicer have brought together an impressive range of international contributors – with both research and practical expertise – to inform us of the latest thinking and evidence from the field. This theoretically robust and empirically informed collection offers new ways to reduce the harms done by both drugs and policing'.

    Alex Stevens, Professor in Criminal Justice, University of Kent