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Police Attitudes Toward Drugs and Drug Enforcement Research Paper



Various studies have attempted to determine the causes, progress, and other aspects of drug abuse. Nevertheless, few studies have attempted to describe the perception of law enforcers towards drugs, drug abuse, or drug enforcement process. Petrocelli, Oberweis, Smith, and Petrocelli (2014) have chosen a relatively unique topic and area of study. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to develop a comprehensive critique of the journal article in order to achieve the aforementioned goal.

Study problem

The article provides an in-depth background of the drug problem in the US. First, the authors recognize the huge amount of resources the federal government has been using every year to deal with this crime and provide support to the affected people. Secondly, the authors further describe the findings by previous researchers such as Miron (2008) and Miron and Waldock (2010), which provides evidence that the federal government spends more than $44 billion every year in enforcing drug laws. Thirdly, the researchers argue that the relationship between social norms and compliance and the law enforcement system is not well understood. The researchers suggest that the cause of these gaps in knowledge is the lack of large-scale scientific studies of the perceptions or perspectives of the police.

Underlying assumptions in the development of study problem

According to the researchers, it is known that the drug problem is a major issue in the US. For instance, it is statistically known that police officers are the major players in the war against drugs, with statistics indicating that they have been arresting about 3 million people per year for crimes associated with drugs and drug abuse. However, what is not known is that the perceptions or attitudes of the law enforcers are important in determining various variables in the problem. Therefore, their attitude towards crime is important because their perceptions of the war against drugs have a profound impact on the process of law enforcement.

Essentially, the researchers have identified an area that most studies tend to ignore. Noteworthy, the study problem takes a unique approach to the drug problem in the US. It attempts to fill the gaps in knowledge by examining the attitudes of the law enforcing institution rather than examining the impact of the problem or perceptions of the society.

Research questions

The researchers fail to provide a detailed description or presentation of the research question of their study. It is worth noting that the conventional requirement for scientific journals is to provide a clear description of the research question that encompasses the entire problem. In this article, the researchers have failed to provide this important feature. Nevertheless, the study problem, as well as a comprehensive and clear description of the background, has been provided. Within the background, it is evident that the researchers were interested in answering the question, “what are the perceptions/attitudes of the police officers towards drug crime and the war against drugs?” In addition, they wanted to answer the question, “what impacts do these perceptions have on the war against drugs in the US?”

Research Design

The study is empirical in nature. The researchers developed a quantitative study that primarily works with statistics to describe the phenomenon. It seeks to fill the gap in knowledge about the perceptions of police officers towards the war on drugs. Moreover, the researchers’ target population for the study was a group of police officers enrolled in a national training course on drug interdiction. One of the tutors at the course was a member of the research team, but the identity has been blinded for ethical purposes.

Secondly, the researchers used survey questions to collect data from the study population. Survey questionnaires were used as the appropriate means of capturing data from the study population.

Ethical considerations

It is unfortunate that the researchers did not provide a clarification of the ethical concerns in the article. In fact, in social science research, a number of ethical issues are likely to occur. For instance, it is worth noting that the researchers touched a critical and sensitive sociopolitical and economic field. Drug crime is a major threat to national and international security. In addition, the researchers touched on a critical aspect of the problem- attitudes of the individuals tasked with eliminating the problem. In fact, the study worked with individuals rather than the institution. By eliciting and attempting to examine police attitudes towards a critical issue like drug abuse, the researchers were prone to elicit individual emotions.

Thus, it is worth noting that the researchers faced some ethical problems. For example, they were supposed to obtain informed consent from the participants. Secondly, the participants’ identities were supposed to be blinded. Third, they were supposed to generalize the results rather than attributing some types of attitudes to a single department or regional police. In addition, they were not supposed to elicit emotions in the participants by asking “too much personal” questions. Despite the critical nature of research ethics in the study, the article fails to show this feature.

Measurement of variables

The purpose of using the survey method of data collection was to ensure that a wide range of variables was captured. For instance, the study captures individuals as well as agency-level variables such as race, gender, experience, ethnicity, and type and size of the police department. Measurement of the variables was done by relating each variable to the perceived extent of application of law enforcement. For instance, the officers were asked to report whether a given aspect of law enforcement was (1) “too strict,” (2) “adequate,” (3) “fairly adequate,” (4) “not adequate,” or (5) “not strict at all.” A scoring system similar to a Likert scale was used to measure each variable.

Validity of responses

Despite a number of failures to address some ethical issues, the researchers successfully obtained a high degree of validity in the responses given. For instance, the participants were aware that their identities were concealed, which made them give honest answers. This is evident because the answers given vary widely across the Likert-like scoring system.

Sample population

The study targeted more than 1,000 officers as the study sample. They argued that the homogeneity of the police force allows the study to use a small sample as a representative of the entire force with more than 1 million police officers. This makes sense because the police department has a relatively high degree of homogeneity. Nevertheless, it is recommended that future studies use a relatively higher sample to represent a large population.

Statistical analysis

Being quantitative research, the study was successful in using statistical analysis to address the research problem. In this context, the researchers used simple statistics and measures of central tendency. Percentages of individuals giving a certain answer to a given question were the main aspect of the study.


The results indicate that police officer have strong and relatively similar attitudes towards drug enforcement. The statistical results are well described using percentages. Percentages were used widely to determine police attitudes towards the problem, which means that they suit the question.


Miron, J. (2008). The budgetary implications of drug prohibition. Economics of criminal law, 17(2), 553-570.

Miron, J., & Waldock, K. (2010). The budgetary impact of ending drug prohibition. Washington, DC: The Cato Institute.

Petrocelli, M., Oberweis, T., Smith, M. R., & Petrocelli, J. (2014). Assessing police attitudes towards drugs and drug enforcement. American journal of criminal justice, 39(1), 22-40.

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IvyPanda. (2021, February 27). Police Attitudes Toward Drugs and Drug Enforcement. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/police-attitudes-toward-drugs-and-drug-enforcement/

Work Cited

"Police Attitudes Toward Drugs and Drug Enforcement." IvyPanda, 27 Feb. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/police-attitudes-toward-drugs-and-drug-enforcement/.

1. IvyPanda. "Police Attitudes Toward Drugs and Drug Enforcement." February 27, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/police-attitudes-toward-drugs-and-drug-enforcement/.


IvyPanda. "Police Attitudes Toward Drugs and Drug Enforcement." February 27, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/police-attitudes-toward-drugs-and-drug-enforcement/.


IvyPanda. 2021. "Police Attitudes Toward Drugs and Drug Enforcement." February 27, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/police-attitudes-toward-drugs-and-drug-enforcement/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Police Attitudes Toward Drugs and Drug Enforcement'. 27 February.

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