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Law Enforcement and Higher Education: Finding Common Ground To Address Underage Drinking on Campus

NCJ Number
Robert C. Hickes; G. F. Harpster; Kathryn Stewart
Date Published
February 2001
17 pages
This document identifies and discusses some of the potential conflicts and barriers that may be encountered by colleges/universities and law enforcement agencies as they attempt to collaborate in addressing alcohol-abuse problems by students on and around college/university campuses.
Higher education and law enforcement often view each other with suspicion and distrust due, in part, to differing goals; whereas law enforcement seeks to have students conform to statutes, higher education encourages students to challenge limits. There are also differing structures, as police agencies tend to have a paramilitary structure, and higher education is generally a collaborative culture with a decentralized power structure. Regarding underage drinking, law enforcement agencies approach it in terms of law/ordinance violations and attached sanctions. Higher education administrators, on the other hand, may view the problem of underage drinking as one that requires internal judicial actions, education for the accused students, and/or campus-based substance abuse intervention programs. Police officials are often not trained to approach problem behavior and law violations with such a multifaceted, informal strategy. Law enforcement agencies tend to view cooperation as providing them with the information and the assistance that will enable them to identify law violators and take traditional police action. Higher education officials tend to view police cooperation as reporting student law violators to the university so they can incorporate the students into programs the administrators view as being most helpful in achieving long-term changes in abusive drinking habits. In suggesting ways to enhance cooperation between police and college administrators, this document provides advice on recognizing cultural and structural differences, the cultivation of open communication, and the creation of healthy environments. The latter involves cooperation between colleges/universities and police in the development and implementation of environmental strategies designed to prevent alcohol problems on college campuses, as well as cooperation to reduce underage youth's/student's access to alcohol. 13 resources