Youth, substances and police

Ethnic minority youth, everyday interactions with the police and their experiences of drugs and alcohol


The aim of this project is to examine the general experiences and perceptions of ethnic minority youth in their involuntary everyday interactions with the police, and more specifically these young people’s perceptions and experiences of drugs. The results of the project will contribute both to academic and policy debates on how the police can constructively interact with youth in neighbourhoods where there exists high concentrations of ethnic minority citizens.


Recently, we have witnessed an increasing focus by the media and lawmakers on ethnic minority youth and their potential involvement in crime, gangs, drug use and drug dealing. This has resulted in more intensified policing practices targeting these young people. However, while public attention is increasingly directed towards ethnic minority youth, little research in Denmark has examined the experiences of the young people themselves and their perceptions of policing practices. Recent international research has documented the harmful effects of police practices based on “racial profiling” on relationships between young people, ethnic minority communities and the police.

The study

The project consists of one main project and two subprojects. In the main project, we will conduct 100 interviews with ethnic minority youth (16-25 years) to explore their experiences with the police in their everyday lives. We will also examine the young peoples’ views on and potential experiences with drugs and alcohol. In the first subproject, we will interview 25 police officers operating in neighbourhoods with high concentrations of ethnic minority families in order to examine police perceptions of and experiences in their interactions with ethnic minority youth. In addition, we will interview 25 stakeholders to explore their overall perspectives on police interactions with ethnic minority youth. In the second subproject, a PHD project, we will contact 15 ethnic minority families, whose sons have been arrested or charged with a criminal offence to explore the family member’s experiences of the police. We will also examine the extent to which these experiences affect the families’ willingness to cooperate with the police and other legal authorities. The three year project commenced in February 2017.


The project is financed by Independent Research Found Denmark


Our international advisory panel is made up of criminology experts from Rutgers University, USA, the London School of Economics, UK, Malmö University, Sweden, Oslo University, Norway and the University of Aalborg.