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Implementation of the knowledge concerning drugs by the police and the magistracy

Research project DR/20 (Research action DR)


Persons :


Description :

Theme and research frameworks

The research focuses from two frameworks on the way by which the police and the magistracy apply their knowledge concerning drugs in the performance of their duties, when coming to a decision.

From a first framework, we observe the implementation of the knowledge concerning drugs as a part of the socialization process. The knowledge, the aptitudes and the techniques are transmitted and teached during training and education in order to acquire a certain method or attitude. This enables to face specific situations in practice.
The research on the education of the magistrates and its relation to the daily practice is almost non-existent in our country. From the – scarce – existent research on the education of the police in Belgium and abroad, it appears however that the impact of the education in the daily practice is rather limited. The socialization on the field is generally considered as being more important than the formal education.
In other words, a first field of tension shows up between the formal process of knowledge acquisition and the informal process of socialization on the field.

From a second framework, we can also observe the implementation of knowledge concerning drugs, namely from a policy framework. We can refer here to the policy formulation, the policy execution and the policy freedom. This means that the police and the magistracy are obliged to make choices in the performance of their duties.
In other words, a second field of tension appears within this framework, namely between the formal policy formulation and the informal policy execution.

The diversity in education and in policy makes fear that considerable differences may interfere in the interpretation and the final application of knowledge concerning drugs in the daily practice of the police and the magistrates.


The research questions and the choice of the research subjects

The object of the research is to examine the differences and the resemblances we can establish in the application of knowledge, aptitudes and attitude concerning drugs by the police and the magistracy. We examine also from which field of tension these differences and resemblances can be explained, and what are the factors that can serve as explanation.

Concerning the police, the research concentrates on the local police, more precisely on the neighbourhood police, the intervention and the specialized drug cells (if they exist) on the one hand, and on the crime-units of the federal police on the other hand.
Concerning the research subjects within the magistracy, we will focus as well on the public prosecutors as on the Bench, situated at the level of first instance (namely the police court and the correctional court).


Chapter 1 of the research: examine the frameworks in terms of contents

In its first chapter, the research concentrates on the contents of the knowledge (concerning drugs) in the formal education of the police and the magistracy. We also examine here how this knowledge is transmitted and we try to make visible the field of tension between the formal and informal socialization. Beside this, we also observe the Belgian policy framework concerning drugs. We examine here how the policy is formulated and how the different concepts are defined.

The research methods that will be used in this chapter are the literature study, the semi-structured qualitative interview and the (participatory) observation. The literature study must procure insight in the knowledge offer concerning drugs in the training and education of the police and the magistracy, in the relation between the formal education and the informal socialization, in the definitions used within the policy framework and in the research methods used in the research. The policy documents will also be examined. The semi-structured qualitative interview will be executed among the formal ‘providers of knowledge’, such as the teachers during the education, and among the policy actors. There where it is possible, the observations are used to obtain, from another angle, a comprehension on how the knowledge concerning drugs is transmitted.

In this chapter of the research, we also pay attention – on the basis of the interviews, the literature study and the exploration of the different trainings – to the creation of the questionnaire that will be used in chapter 2 of the research.


Chapter 2 of the research: the differences and the resemblances in the application of knowledge concerning drugs

In the second chapter of the research, we focus on the implementation or application of knowledge concerning drugs in the actual performance of duties of the police and the magistracy. Contrary to the previous chapter of the research, we go here along the opposite path.

Accordingly to the actual performance of their duties, the question is: on what knowledge, what aptitudes and techniques does the police or the magistrate base themselves when they are confronted to drug users in a specific situation? The differences and the resemblances that we establish here are associated to the field of tension between the formal and informal socialization on the one hand, and to the field of tension between the policy formulation and the policy execution (what is the role of the directives in the application of knowledge and in the attitude of the police and the magistracy) on the other hand. We examine here, from these two frameworks, the factors that can provide an explanation for these differences and resemblances.

In this chapter of the research, we use two research methods, namely the submission of the questionnaire and the organisation of a focus group. The questionnaire will be submitted as well at the police as at the magistracy. Then, focus groups will be organised, for the purpose of deepening the results of this questionnaire. In these focus groups, the explanations of the differences and the resemblances in the application of knowledge must be considered in the definitions used. This method provides against the disadvantages of using a questionnaire (clear up indistinctnesses), and it enables to treat the answers formulated to this questionnaire more thoroughly.


Supervisor/coordinator: Prof. Dr Paul Ponsaers (UGent)

Supervisors: Prof. Dr Brice De Ruyver (UGent), Prof. Dr André Lemaitre (ULg), Prof. Dr Michel Born (ULg) and Prof. Dr Claude Macquet (ULg).

Foreign research partner: Prof. A.B. Hoogenboom (Universiteit Neyenrode – Netherlands)

Researchers: Bertrand Fincoeur (ULg) and Wim Vaerewyck (UGent).


Documentation :

Kennis en knowhow van politie en magistratuur over drugs = Savoir et savoir-faire des policiers et des magistrats en matière de drogues  Fincoeur, Bertrand - Vaerewyck, Wim - Born, Michel ... et al  Gent : Academia Press, 2006 (PB6169)
[To download

Savoir et savoir-faire des policiers et des magistrats en matière de drogues : résumé    Bruxelles : Politique scientifique fédérale, 2005 (SP1534)
[To download

Kennis en knowhow van politie en magistratuur over drugs : samenvatting    Brussel : Federaal Wetenschapsbeleid, 2005 (SP1535)
[To download

Knowledge and know-how of police and magistrates in drug-related questions : summary    Brussels : Belgian Science Policy, 2005 (SP1536)
[To download

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