By Tobias Kammersgaard
Several drug policy researchers have noted that the concept of harm reduction could be applied to the field of drug policing in order to assess the negative consequences and potential benefits of policing in this area. However, the application of harm reduction principles to drug policing has only been realized to a limited extent in the current responses to drug use and markets. Accordingly, studies that empirically investigate already existing policing practices, which might be described as operating within such a harm reduction framework, are relatively scarce. In order to address this gap, this article provides an investigation of how policing of an open drug scene has been organized in Denmark since drug possession has been partly decriminalized, following the introduction of drug consumption rooms in Copenhagen. The policing of this open drug scene was investigated through document analysis, interviews, and observations with a patrolling police officer. The article argues that decriminalization has resulted in a shift in the “logics” of policing by enabling the production of an alternative “governable identity” for the drug-using subject, where people who use drugs could more readily be perceived as citizens with rights rather than just as offenders. Accordingly, in this new logic, the violence and victimization experienced by marginalized people who use drugs could more readily be identified as proper objects for police action. The study contributes to our knowledge of how the police can become potential allies rather than adversaries in harm reduction initiatives and broader public health concerns.