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Role of Forensic Medical Examiners and Their Attitudes on Delivering Brief Alcohol Interventions in Police Custody

NCJ Number
Criminal Behavior and Mental Health Volume: 12 Issue: 3 Dated: 2002 Pages: 230-235
David Best; Alison Noble; Margaret Stark; E. Jane Marshall
Date Published
6 pages
This article discusses the possibility of forensic medical examiners (FMEs) delivering brief alcohol interventions in custody suites in England and Wales.
Most FMEs in England and Wales are general practitioners working part time, but an increasing number are specialists in clinical forensic medicine. Up to 80 percent of their work is associated with alcohol use or misuse. The study involved interviewing 14 principal FMEs from London, and 11 other FMEs completing questionnaires. Fifteen police officers were surveyed to explore their attitudes towards “drunken detainees” and to assess their views on the service provided by FMEs. The results show that the main role of FMEs was to ensure “drunken detainees” were safe to be in the police station. The majority of FMEs reported that 10 to 40 percent of their workload involved the assessment of drunken detainees. FMEs reported that in a typical week they would assess an average of 21 detainees, of whom 6 would be under the influence of alcohol. The length of time spent assessing the detainee varied according to level of intoxication, how cooperative the detainee was and concerns regarding his/her drink problems. Most FMEs reported that assessments usually lasted 10 to 20 minutes. Overall, the FMEs showed little knowledge of brief interventions. Most suggested that all drinkers would benefit from some kind of intervention. There was a general perception that drunken detainees should not be held in custody, especially those that were drunk and disorderly or incapable. Nearly all FMEs reported that they would like further training in alcohol and drug issues, but most reported that they were not adequately trained to provide brief interventions. There is a need to educate FMEs about brief interventions and their potential role in the delivery of a rapid and “low demand” intervention. The main concerns regarding brief alcohol interventions included concerns about role legitimacy, the suitability of the location, and the state and motivation of the detainee. 14 references