|Responding to Drug and Alcohol Problems in the Community (WHO, 1991, 109 p.)|
|6. Strengthening links between the health sector and law enforcement personnel|
Needle and syringe exchange schemes. A number of services have been set up throughout the world to prevent the spread of AIDS, by providing users of intravenous drugs with clean needles and syringes. Such a service can only be effective if the police keep their distance. This has usually been achieved through discussions at the highest level in the police force.
Access to treatment. In some communities, the police have agreed not to arrest drug users after a first offence, provided that they attend a drug service for treatment. In others, drug users held in a police cell are seen by a doctor involved in the drug service in order to discuss the treatment possibilities. Setting up such collaborative ventures can satisfy the police, the client, and the drug treatment service.
Collecting data. Both the law enforcement agencies and the drug treatment services are keen to identify the extent of the problem, the number of cases, and any new trends. There are numerous examples of the police and health services working together to collect relevant information and data.
Crime prevention. Setting up a training course can lead to some interesting cooperative ventures as the people attending the courses plan drug-or alcohol-related projects. One such project was planned by a psychologist and a senior policeman. The entry points were community policing and crime prevention. A number of bars in the centre of a town were targeted, and the police made regular visits. In a friendly way, they reminded bar staff about the laws relating to young people, as well as those relating to selling drink to people who were already intoxicated. This high profile community policing had quite a dramatic impact on alcohol-related crimes, reducing the number of arrests by over 20%.
Drink and driving. It is relatively easy to get the cooperation of various groups to develop a drink-driving campaign. One such campaign brought together the police, the brewers, bar staff, social workers, health promotion specialists, the transport industry, and a number of other groups and individuals. The campaign had a very high profile, but the most significant effect was the building up of momentum to such an extent that the drink-driving campaign was followed by a much more comprehensive "DRINK-WISE" programme. The police were determined to play a part in the drink-driving campaign, but were then linked into the broader prevention and health promotion initiative.
Licensing authorities. One interesting and unusual example of collaboration between the health services, the social services, and a law enforcement agency involved a committee that had responsibility for issuing licences to sell alcohol. Close cooperation and discussion resulted in the committee agreeing to provide licences only on condition that the prospective licensee attended a course on alcohol-related problems. These courses are now well established and valued by both the licensing authority and the licensees.
Influencing the gatekeeper
In most activities that involve community action, there are people in authority who can facilitate or hinder a particular project. For instance, it may be impossible for the police to develop a course on drugs for schools without the assent of the regional director of education. He or she is the gatekeeper for this type of project. Collaboration on a project will certainly be helped if the gatekeepers can be identified and involved in some way. Sometimes the decision to halt a project is a result of lack of information about the project and about the people involved. If the gatekeeper can put a face to a name, then he or she is much more likely to say "Yes".