Drug-related complaints against police: some findings from a New South Wales study

Jeremy Ratcliffe, David Biles, Tracey Green, Seumas Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose ' To examine the incidence and prevalence rate of drug-related complaints against police in the New South Wales Police Service (Australia) and compare these rates to officer demographics. Design/methodology/approach ' Seven years of complaints data (1993-2000) are examined. The data showed that of nearly 40,000 complaints amounting to over 80,000 allegations, less than 2 percent relate to drug-related allegations. These allegations were isolated and the pattern of officer demographics from these incidents were compared to the police service as a whole, with the aim of exploring if particular groups (such as length of service, age, gender etc.) were particularly susceptible to attracting drug-related allegations. Findings ' The most common drug-related allegation was for supplying drugs. The distribution of drug-related complaints follows the general demographic pattern of officers in the police service, though female officers attracted fewer drug-related allegations. Adverse findings, while rare, are most likely to be recorded against lower ranking police officers who have served less time in the police service. Practical implications ' The paper shows that demographics alone are not sufficient to identify officers at risk of being on the receiving end of a drug-related complaint. The age, service and rank analysis conducted in this paper has not revealed any particular groups that are more susceptible to allegations of drugs misconduct. This paper therefore supports the idea that a more thorough early warning system tailored to individual officers may be necessary for an effective strategic complaints system. Originality/value ' With a pool of nearly 80,000 allegations to draw upon, the research employs one of the largest data sets ever examined. The findings are therefore sufficient to provide robust statistical comparisons, and are of interest to police practitioners, law enforcement managers, and researchers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-83
Number of pages15
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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