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Police and crime commissioners: emerging “drug policy actors”?

Liz Austen (Department of Law and Criminology, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, United Kingdom)

Safer Communities

ISSN: 1757-8043

Article publication date: 11 January 2016



In 2013, the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Durham, Ron Hogg, initiated a debate around the future of British drug policy. In June 2015, the Derbyshire PCC, Alan Charles, opened a similar debate with representatives from policing, third party support agencies, national advocates and academics to discuss the possibilities for change. This short paper presents the views and actions of senior figures in the police service and discusses motivations for pursuing change. The purpose of this paper is to introduce police and crime commissioners as “drug policy actors” (Seddon, 2011) and to highlight key areas for further academic enquiry.


This paper is based on press releases and media accounts of the recent activity of the PCCs in relation to national drug policy. This paper provides an academic viewpoint on recent events, supported by theoretical literature critiquing drug policy and contemporary policing.


This viewpoint articulates that motivations for pursuing a change in drug policy are based on both economic and ideological agendas of some PCCs. Irrespective of the motivation, pressure from PCCs and renowned Chief Constables may be more effective in initiating change than high-profile national campaigns and political debates.


This paper is the first of its kind to discuss the relationship between PCCs/local constabularies and drug policy reform. It provides a foundation for future research which could investigate views on alternatives to prohibition, specifically within the wider police force.



Austen, L. (2016), "Police and crime commissioners: emerging “drug policy actors”?", Safer Communities, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 4-10.



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