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Law Enforcement and Public Health – A visit to the Netherlands and France

Oct. 19, 2018

From May 3rd to 9th 2016, Center for Supporting Community Development Initiatives (SCDI) and The People Police Academy have jointly organized a visit to the Netherlands and France in order to explore the link and try to build a bridge between Law Enforcement and Public Health.

The composition of the delegation included Dr. Khuat Thi Hai Oanh, Director of SCDI; Maj.-Gen., Assoc. Prof. Dr Pham Ngoc Ha, deputy director of the Academy; Lt.-Gen. Ho Thanh Dinh; Col., Assoc.Prof. Bui Minh Trung – Dean of Crime Narcotics Division; Lt. Col., Assoc. Prof. Hoang Dinh Ban – Dean of the Enforcement and Justice Assistance Department of the Academy; Col. Dinh Ngoc Quyen - Deputy Director of Quang Ninh Police Department and Lt. Col. Dong Thi Anh Van - Deputy Chief of Office of Hanoi Police Department.

Photo: The meeting of People Police Academy with Police Attaché and Health Attaché of the French Embassy before departure.

Law Enforcement and Health - Public Security and Health, these two terms might sound unrelated to each other at first hearing. However, through published research papers and practical experience shared at International conference on Law Enforcement and Public Health as well as field trips outside the conference in the Netherlands and France, the delegates from Vietnam have seen an extremely tight association between them. To ensure security, the Government and relevant authorities should be interested in mental health, drug alcohol and HIV infection treatment. In all countries throughout the world, a large percentage of objects of police interest are as well objects of medical attention. For example, in the US, 65% of prisoners have substance use disorders.

 "The vulnerable groups are often afraid of being exposed and arrested by police; moreover, there is shortage of prevention and health care for prisoners. The factors mentioned above can be one of the factors contributing to the increase in infectious illness or exacerbate mental health problems in these populations."

At the conference, the Vietnam police officers got familiar with "vulnerable population group" - people with mental health, drugs or alcohol issues; sex workers; transgender people; the homeless, children who had negative experiences in the family; prisoners; people living in poverty in urban areas, and so on. These people inherently have or are at risk to chronic diseases and infections and are likely at risk of legal problems, much more highly than the general population. For many of them, health issues, mental illness, addiction are the main cause of violations of the law.

The vulnerable groups are often afraid of being exposed and arrested by police; moreover, there is shortage of prevention and health care for prisoners. The factors mentioned above can be one of the factors contributing to the increase in infectious illness or exacerbate their mental health problems. Previous approach - "repression" of people at risk of or have violated the law and/or isolating them from society without regard to the underlying causes, especially for health reasons as psychiatric and addiction problems - has been proven to be ineffective. In the US, the  recidivism rates in people with substance use after 3 years is 67.8% and 76.6% after 5 years.
In recognition of this, the intervention strategies currently applied in the developed countries consists in the close cooperation between thePolice and Public Health sectors. Police will facilitate, present, organize health services for vulnerable people. Public Health sector will provide treatment to people with problems of mental health, drug addicts, implement harm reduction interventions to prevent infections and deaths by infectious diseases that these groups at risk of, e.g. HIV, hepatitis C, tuberculosis, both in the community and in prisons. The result of this collaboration is to include order, public security and public health into improvement process. This cooperation, if implemented, will bring a better future: the police must arrest and handle less incidents than before, the number of people having access to health services will also increase.
"We should focus on healthbeing of the Police force as well:  Problems of mental health, such as trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc. are relatively common among Police"

Delegates from Vietnam were truly impressed not only with the quality of meticulous research nor experience gained in depth, but also with the participation with confidence and enthusiasm of "the insiders" - drug users, people with HIV, sex workers, transgender people and people with mental illness. More specifically, the meeting also discussed the major health problems of the Police force:  Problems of mental health, such as trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc. are relatively common among Police.

Photo: Meeting with Public Health Service of Amsterdam and Aids Fonds in Aids Fonds office, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Other works apart from the conference, as the meeting with Public Health Service of Amsterdam, Aids Fonds Organization, the visit to CSAPA Pierre Nicole in Paris and Bois d'Arcy prison, have provided practical experience for the delegation of the People Police Academy.
During the end of this trip, the Center for Supporting Community Development Initiatives SCDI and The People Police Academy have launched a number of ideas to implement in Vietnam.

Vân Anh


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