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Northeastern University

360 Huntington Ave

Boston, MA 02115



Police work puts officers into frequent contact people struggling with substance use and other behavioral health challenges. Despite clear opportunities to do so, officers often lack the tools and training to meaningfully assist such individuals, while facing real and perceived occupational risks related to their drug law enforcement activities.


Starting in 2003, our team’s research began to explore gaps in the implementation of drug laws, including syringe decriminalization, Good Samaritan policies, and naloxone access laws. Follow-up studies identified a number of reasons underlying these gaps, including evidence that police officers are often uninformed about policy details, ill-equipped in translating formal law into operating procedures, and deeply apprehensive about the occupational safety risks posed by their enforcement activities to address drug-related problems, including needle  stick injuries (NSI), accidental exposure to fentanyl, and psychological stress. Our team has generated a premier knowledge base on these occupational safety factors and trainings designed to address them.

This research serves as the core foundation of the SHIELD (Safety and Health Integration in the Enforcement of Laws on Drugs) model. In contrast to other trainings, our model deploys targeted, theory-driven, and

research-tested instructional techniques to harmonize police practices with overdose crisis response, including lay responder naloxone access, Good Samaritan laws, syringe services, opioid substitution therapy, and other public health measures.


The intervention’s principal goal is to boost police practices that promote both officer safety and public health response to the opioid crisis.


For instance, this includes informing suspects about syringe legality before conducting a search, while reducing syringe breaking and other behaviors that undermine occupational and public health. Secondary benefits include building cross-sectoral collaboration and synergy to enhance community responses to drug-related harms, reducing stigma of substance use disorders, and boosting legitimacy and community trust in police agencies.


Police-public health partnership is the engine of the SHIELD model. This is why the model requires collaboration between law enforcement training professionals, public health service providers, and members of the community. SHIELD’s instructional design was then tested and fine-tuned in several US jurisdictions, as well as abroad, with positive results.




Module I: Needle Stick Injury and Infection Risks

  • Key facts about risk of needlestick injury and infectious disease transmission

  • Occupational safety techniques and interactive skill-building on sharps handling

  • Laws and policies related to syringes

  • Standard operating procedures for responding to needlestick injury 


Module II: Overdose Scene Safety

  • Key facts about risk of field exposure to fentanyl and symptoms of opioid overdose

  • Occupational safety techniques for overdose prevention and skill-building on using naloxone

  • Standard operating procedures for overdose scene response


Module III: Workplace Wellness: Stress, Burnout, and Compassion Fatigue

  • Key facts about risk of stress, burnout, and compassion fatigue

  • Occupational safety techniques for recognizing and addressing vicarious trauma and toxic stress

  • Key facts about treatment and supportive services that can reduce police workplace burden 

  • Standard operating procedures for deflecting individuals in need to treatment and supportive services



  1. Establish a formal working relationship between police and public health entities

  2. Collaboratively adapt curriculum to legal, cultural, geographical, and other elements of the jurisdiction working in partnership

  3. Train the trainers

  4. Model collaboration by featuring police and public health instructors in training delivery

  5. Build sustainable bridges between management and patrol officers and service providers

  6. Facilitate evaluation and analysis of training impact

  7. Provide technical assistance to assure the institutionalization and sustainability of the SHIELD model

Massachusetts, USA
Missouri, DOTS Project
Pennsylvania, USA

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