The Role of Law Enforcement Officers/Police in Drug Prevention within Educational Settings-Study Protocol for the Development of a Guiding Document Based on Experts' Opinions

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Mar 5;18(5):2613. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18052613.


The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime-World Health Organization International Standards on Drug Use Prevention-reflects the value of safe, nurturing and supportive social institutions around the lives of youths to benefit from the prevention of risky behavior extending beyond individually-developed resilience for healthy adolescent development. Schools are valuable social institutions to this effect and school safety and adolescent health outcomes can be threatened by drug use and violence. As such, collaborative, multi-level, evidence-based, developmentally sensitive, substance use prevention programs are imperative. The International Standards, in their latest version, did not reflect specific evidence of law enforcement officer-based programs with effect on drug use prevention, including in school settings. Nevertheless, the collaboration between law enforcement agencies and school-based substance use prevention programs continue to be the focus of research and policy. In this project, we aim to explore in more detail the role of law enforcement in preventing substance use in schools. We use mixed methods, including three phases: (i) scoping review on the best practices for effective law enforcement in school-based drug and crime prevention; (ii) interviews with experts, using the Delphi method, in substance use prevention and training law enforcement in school-based drug prevention; and iii) developing guidelines for law enforcement based on the findings. Initially, we identified a total of 17 papers that were categorized in four categories based on their results (negative or null effect n = 11 studies, positive effect n = 1 study, mixed effects n = 4 studies and indefinite conclusion n = 1 study). However, the authors of the studies with negative or null effect did recommend being cautious about these results due to the respective studies' methodological limitations. The actual and perceived roles of police are largely unclear and/or variable. Therefore, clear outlines regarding law enforcement's role within schools are crucial as one study showed that an officer's role influences how they respond to student conduct. A secondary emergent theme from this review indicates that there is potential for positively impacting a youth's perceptions of police through collaborative and engaging school-based programs. Currently the project is gradually moving to Phase II, where we are identifying the key experts based on scientifically published peer reviewed and grey literature/guidelines to investigate elements that make the role of law enforcement officers in school-based prevention more effective. Given the frequency with which policy makers around the world request information about the role of law enforcement in effective prevention efforts, guidelines on their roles within schools is a gap that needs to be filled. Such efforts would improve drug prevention in schools and better orient law enforcement's role in drug prevention within educational settings.

Keywords: crime prevention; drug prevention; educational settings; law enforcement officers; schools.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Crime
  • Humans
  • Law Enforcement
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations*
  • Police*
  • Review Literature as Topic
  • Schools


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations