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Illegal Drug Use by Police Officers: Using Research and Investigations to Inform Prevention Strategies

NCJ Number
International Journal of Police Science and Management Volume: 11 Issue: 1 Dated: Spring 2009 Pages: 85-96
Angela Gorta
Date Published
12 pages
This study examined New South Wales Police Force (NSWPF) officers’ illegal drug use to identify what can be done to minimize such illegal drug use.
Results reveal that illegal drug use by police officers can take many forms and may not be obvious to the officer’s colleagues. NSW police officers have admitted to using a wide range of illegal drugs: amphetamines, cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, ketamine, and non-prescribed steroids. Officers who use illegal drugs were not readily identifiable in terms of age, gender, rank, duty type, or the geographical area in which they work. Key findings include both male and female officers used illegal drugs; officers’ age at the time of detection or admission of illegal drug use ranged from 20 years to 48 years; the ranks held by officers who were detected as having used drugs ranged from probationary constable to sergeant; illegal drug use by police was not confined to officers working in metropolitan areas; the majority of officers who admitted using illegal drugs had not been using these drugs throughout their entire policing careers; while some officers used illegal drugs prior to joining the NSWPF, others had worked as officers for a substantial number of years before trying illegal drugs. Officers gave different accounts of their reasons for using illegal drugs: some officers mentioned stress, either at work, in their personal lives, or just simply lifestyle choices as reasons why they used illegal drugs. Much of the illegal drug use occurred when officers were socializing with friends and family, but limited their drug use to when they were off duty. Data were collected through interviewing, private hearings, and focus groups. 2 notes and 54 references