The International AIDS Society (IAS) published a policy brief on “Reducing harm: police as partners in preventing HIV, promoting public health and protecting the rights of people who use drugs“. The brief spotlights the role of police through exploring the interface of policing, harm reduction and the human rights of people who use and inject drugs.
The police have a central role in enabling people who use drugs to realise their human rights and access the health and other services they need and are entitled to. By fulfilling this role and becoming a partner in harm reduction, both the police and the broader communities in which they serve benefit immeasurably.
Law enforcement must work in partnership with the community, including people who use drugs, in pursuit of creating a rights- and health-affirming environment. While protecting public health is not the primary function of the police, operating within a human rights framework that improve health and well-being is part of progressive and effective policing practice.
Launched on World Hepatitis Day in 2018, the IAS policy brief series on inclusive care services and policies spotlights the needs of people who use drugs and aims to accelerate the global viral hepatitis response by bringing more attention to a population whose needs remain underserved. Topics include prioritizing people who inject drugs in viral hepatitis C (HCV) elimination efforts, women who inject drugs, police and harm reduction, young people who inject drugs and community-delivered harm reduction services. Other areas of focus include stigma and effective advocacy strategies for health promotion.
The Law Enforcement Action Partnership and the Centre for Law Enforcement and Public Health held this side event to demonstrate police support for the urgent reform of drug policies. The event can be summarised as follows: There is one sector which knows better than any other how badly a prohibitive and punitive approach to the use of illicit drugs has failed – the Police. Police daily see the harmful impact of prohibition law enforcement on individuals and communities, and recurrent failure of the system to help those suffering. But the Police voice is rarely heard in debates about drug policy, despite their first-hand and expert experience.
This was a historic moment: the representatives of the British police and several European countries presented a milestone declaration for the reduction of risks, decriminalisation of drug use and regulation of drugs. Presenting the statement, Ron Hogg, Police and Crime Commissioner for Durham Constabulary, clearly emphasized that “Prohibition does not work”.
The two organisations call for an immediate end to arbitrary detention, extra-judicial killings, the death penalty, torture and ill-treatment and other human rights abuses committed by some governments in the name of the “war on drugs”.
The essence of the statement is that “eliminating this “war on drugs” approach would mean: less drug-related crime; less violence in the community; drastically reduced criminal profits and funds for other criminal activities; reduced prison populations and less pressure on criminal justice systems; less stigma and discrimination; and improved health outcomes for people who use drugs.”
The statement was signed by an international collective of Law Enforcement professionals.
The Office for Combating Drugs and the Office for cooperation with the Civil Society of the Republic of Serbia organised the first sectorial meeting with the representatives of the Ministry of Interior and the Department for prevention of narcomania and combating drug trafficking of the Directorate of Police on 2 February 2017. More than 40 representatives of various CSOs participated, including DPNSEE, Prevent and Re Generacija. The meeting was intended for sharing information and establishing contacts. The police representatives were more oriented to focusing the discussion on prevention and taking restrictive, repressive position and most of the CSO representatives also came from the prevention sphere. All our representatives took floor and indicated the need for new approach to drug issue.