Drugs policing

Authored by: Maggy Lee , Nigel South

Handbook of Policing

Print publication date:  August  2008
Online publication date:  August  2012

Print ISBN: 9781843925002
eBook ISBN: 9780203118238
Adobe ISBN: 9781136308529


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Just as drugs policy is ‘never purely about drugs’ (Dorn 1998: 11) so too the policing of drugs reflects wider politics, social change and perceptions of threats to social order and everyday life. Illegal drugs are a source of fear for many and demonised by authorities and the media: often representing a ‘plague’ or source of ‘corruption’ identified with external ‘others’ that requires the mobilisation of defences and resources to fight a ‘war’ (Christie 1986; Home Affairs Committee 1986; South 1999). Throughout the twentieth century, police were key contributors to the development of this discourse although, importantly, this was not to the exclusion of innovations such as the accommodation in the 1980s of harm reduction principles (Dorn and South 1994), the creation of arrest referral schemes (Dorn et al. 1990) or reservations from some ‘thinking coppers’ about the implications of the ‘drugs war mentality’ for British policing (Grieve 1993; Blanchard 2003). Drugs policing remains a particularly high profile field despite the anti-terrorism agenda of the post-9/11 world order. Indeed the links between terrorism and drug trafficking as a source of funding are of particular interest to intelligence analysts and investigators (see Cope, this volume).

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