Cops, drugs and the community: establishing consultative harm reduction structures in two Western Australian locations
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In Australia a police project incorporating four parallel trials was established to test a new model of illicit drug law enforcement, which gives greater emphasis to harm reduction at the community level. The project was based on a community-policing model developed in the United Kingdom and involved establishing a community based consultation structure comprising an implementation oriented Drug Action Team (DAT) and support oriented Drug Reference Group (DRG). Two of the trials operated in Western Australia: one in Geraldton, a small regional city; and the other in Mirrabooka, a large, diverse, metropolitan region within Perth. The project officers were faced with a number of challenges and had to develop strategies to overcome these. One of the important issues was the effect of continual changes in membership of DATs, and consequent fluctuating levels of enthusiasm and commitment. The size and composition of the DATs also had an impact on how they operated. Other issues included the management of different agency agendas and recognition that the project would only operate for a limited time. How the project officers dealt with these issues in their development of the DAT/DRG model and how the two trial sites incorporated harm reduction into illicit drug policing are presented and discussed.
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