Ahead of the long weekend, the Alberta Peace Officer Professional Association has a warning about the growing threat posed by opioids after one of its members was exposed to a vial of fentanyl.
Officer Jeremy Hampton works with the Seba Beach Patrol Service, about 85 kilometres west of Edmonton. He was rushed to hospital on Saturday after he came across a vial of powder he found on the road.
Hampton was on patrol, driving through the summer village, when he noticed the vial lying on the road.
“It was a bright sunny day and a vial stands out on the gravel,” Dwight Dawn, president of the Alberta Peace Officer Professional Association, said on Friday. “You’re not driving too fast.”
Dawn said Hampton put on rubber gloves to pick up the vial before wrapping the vial inside the glove while taking it off.
“We don’t know how he came into contact. There could have been powder on the outside of it and it blew off and got in the vehicle,” Dawn said.
“That stuff is very potent and it doesn’t take much.”
When Hampton returned to his office in Seba Beach, he began to have difficulty breathing.
“He figured that he got infected with whatever was in the vial.”
Hampton injected himself with naloxone and called 911. He was rushed to hospital where he was given another shot of the drug that helps reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
Dawn said fentanyl is becoming more prevalent on the job.
“We don’t want to start wearing rubber gloves every traffic stop. But it’s getting worse and worse,” Dawn said.
“During a traffic stop, if that person in the vehicle has been around fentanyl and touched stuff on his or her dash, the driver’s licence, documents that they pass you, it makes you wonder today.”
The Alberta Peace Officer Professional Association represents 450 officers in 120 jurisdictions throughout the province.
Dawn said fortunately Hampton had access to a naloxone kit, but not all officers do. Peace officers work for municipalities and each deals with the issue differently.
“A lot of municipalities are coming on board, but it takes some time,” he said.
Dawn wasn’t sure how many Alberta peace officers would have access to naloxone.
Hampton took a few days to recoup and is back on the job.
Dawn said he’s thankful no children came into contact with the vial before it was spotted by Hampton.
“Weekends like this, we really need to make people aware and understand that fentanyl is not a joke.”