The head of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) is calling for the decriminalization of simple possession of illicit drugs.
“Arresting individuals for simple possession of illicit drugs has proven to be ineffective,” Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer, who heads the CACP, said Thursday. “It does not save lives.”
Palmer says the chiefs recommend the “current enforcement-based approach for possession be replaced with a health-care approach that diverts people from the criminal justice system.”
The association is calling for the creation of a national task force to look into drug policy reform.
Enforcement and judicial efforts must continue to target trafficking and the illegal production and importation of drugs to choke off the supply of harmful substances coming communities, the chiefs say.
But the traditional role of frontline policing has fundamentally shifted to harm reduction when interacting with people experiencing addiction or mental-health problems, Palmer said in a statement.
“Frequently, our officers are the point of first contact and the ones who will assist individuals in accessing appropriate services and pathways of care.”
A committee report calls for “new and innovative approaches if we are going to disrupt the current trend of drug overdoses impacting communities across Canada.”
B.C.’s provincial health officer has advocated for the decriminalization of people who use drugs.
In a report released in April, Dr. Bonnie Henry says the change is an important step in dealing with the province’s ongoing overdose crisis.
— With files from The Canadian Press