Skip to main content

Policing, Law Enforcement and Harm Reduction

Policing, Law Enforcement and Harm ReductionGuest Editors: Brandon del Pozo, Jennifer J. Carroll, Mukta Sharma

Editor-in-Chief: Prof Nick Crofts 

Harm Reduction Journal


The Harm Reduction Journal is compiling a special collection: “Policing, Law Enforcement, and Harm Reduction: Tensions and Opportunities.”

Worldwide, police are the first to respond to practically all emergent social concerns, resulting in disproportionate (and generally negative) interactions with people who use drugs, engage in sex work, health and health care disparities, or are otherwise racialized, criminalized, and marginalized.

There is growing consensus that the police mandate is too broad, that police responses produce social harms, and that alternative response models (whether co-responder models or non-law enforcement response) are overdue. Progress will require better of understanding the complex interplay of these various actors and their impacts on wellbeing for individuals and communities.

To better understand these attendant challenges and opportunities, the editors of this special issue are interested in research and commentary at the intersection of policing, law enforcement, and harm reduction worldwide. Studies that examine the tensions between police activity and harm reduction work are of key importance and interest. This includes work on public health-public safety collaborations to reduce the harms associated with substance use the and the inherent opportunities and limitations of these endeavors. This also includes work problematizing the colonial legacies of policing, including reliance on colonial-era law and the colonial origins of contemporary practices in both policing and public health.

The editors especially encouraged submissions which people with lived experience—those who use drugs, harm reductionists, sex workers, police and law enforcement, and others—have directly contributed. The goal is to publish articles that integrate experience and empower the translation and dissemination of research to accurately inform policy, law, and practice to contribute to the development of humane and effective responses to these contemporary social issues. This includes research articles and commentaries challenging criminalization, and the role of police in this.

All submissions in this issue undergo the journal’s standard peer review process. As an open access publication, Harm Reduction Journal levies an article processing fee (details here). We recognize that many key stakeholders may not have access to such resources and are committed to supporting participation in this issue wherever resources are a barrier. For more information about what support may be available, please visit OA funding and support, or email OAfundingpolicy@springernature.com or the Editor-in-Chief.


Submissions to this series are now closed


  1. The criminalization of sex work and drug use creates unequal power dynamics easily exploited by police. Women who exchange sex (WES) in settings around the globe have reported coerced sex and sexual assault by...

    Authors: Danielle Friedman Nestadt, Kristin E. Schneider, Catherine Tomko and Susan G. Sherman
    Citation: Harm Reduction Journal 2023 20:11
  2. Female sex workers (FSW) have been disproportionately impacted by the Covid-19 crisis. Data show increases of police violence toward key populations (KP), likely a consequence of their role in enforcing health...

    Authors: I. Aristegui, J. Castro Avila, V. Villes, R. M. Delabre, G. Orellano, M. Aguilera, M. Romero, L. Riegel, L. Kretzer, N. Cardozo, P. D. Radusky and D. Rojas Castro
    Citation: Harm Reduction Journal 2022 19:139
  3. To counteract the spread of new psychoactive substances (NPS) and to prevent the emergence of novel substances, specifically designed as a response to the legal control of individual substances, a new law was ...

    Authors: Regina Kühnl, Darya Aydin, Sabine Horn, Sally Olderbak, Uwe Verthein and Ludwig Kraus
    Citation: Harm Reduction Journal 2022 19:122
  4. Narrow or non-existent Good Samaritan Law protections and harsh drug selling statutes in the USA have been shown to deter bystanders from seeking medical assistance for overdoses. Additionally, little is known...

    Authors: Alexandria Macmadu, Annajane Yolken, Lisa Frueh, Jai’el R. Toussaint, Roxxanne Newman, Brendan P. Jacka, Alexandra B. Collins and Brandon D. L. Marshall
    Citation: Harm Reduction Journal 2022 19:116
  5. In 2016, the US state of North Carolina (NC) legalized syringe services programs (SSPs), providing limited immunity from misdemeanor syringe possession when law enforcement is presented documentation that syri...

    Authors: Brandon Morrissey, Tamera Hughes, Bayla Ostrach, Loftin Wilson, Reid Getty, Tonya L. Combs, Jesse Bennett and Jennifer J. Carroll
    Citation: Harm Reduction Journal 2022 19:106
  6. The impact of policing practices on the engagement of people who use drugs (PWUD) with harm reduction services is well evidenced. Although the police have traditionally taken an enforcement role in responding ...

    Authors: Danilo Falzon, Elizabeth V. Aston, Hannah Carver, Wendy Masterton, Bruce Wallace, Harry Sumnall, Fiona Measham, Emma Fletcher, Rosalind Gittins, Saket Priyadarshi and Tessa Parkes
    Citation: Harm Reduction Journal 2022 19:105
  7. The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the need for wide deployment of effective harm reduction strategies in preventing opioid overdose mortality. Placing naloxone in the hands of key responders, including law e...

    Authors: Elham Pourtaher, Emily R. Payne, Nicole Fera, Kirsten Rowe, Shu-Yin John Leung, Sharon Stancliff, Mark Hammer, Joshua Vinehout and Michael W. Dailey
    Citation: Harm Reduction Journal 2022 19:102
  8. Individuals with substance use disorder often encounter law enforcement due to drug use-related criminal activity. Traditional policing approaches may not be effective for reducing recidivism and improving out...

    Authors: Alice Zhang, Joseph A. Balles, Jennifer E. Nyland, Thao H. Nguyen, Veronica M. White and Aleksandra E. Zgierska
    Citation: Harm Reduction Journal 2022 19:67

    The Correction to this article has been published in Harm Reduction Journal 2022 19:85