The nature of risk during interactions between the police and intoxicated offenders


How best to respond to and manage intoxicated offenders is a concern shared by policing agencies across Australia. Intoxicated offenders present additional behavioural and health risks during their interaction with police. These risks may result in harm to the officers, the offender or the community. This research examined how intoxication influences the nature and magnitude of the risk associated with police officer/offender interactions. Using data from the National Deaths in Custody Program, a qualitative sample of 41 cases were analysed. These cases involved offenders who died in police custody and who, according to autopsy results, had alcohol or drugs in their system at the time of death. Results showed that, while intoxication influences an offender’s behaviour and health, the overall level of risk during the interaction was determined by the interplay between these two elements and the police response. This interplay between intoxicated behaviours, health risks and police responses should be considered in the development of policies and practices to minimise harm.