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Saskatchewan police forces say health approach needed if drug possession is decriminalized

Saskatchewan police forces say health approach needed if drug possession is decriminalized
WATCH: Saskatchewan's police services are chiming in following a call from Canadian police chiefs to decriminalize simple drug possession.

Saskatchewan’s largest municipal police forces are chiming in following a call from the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs (CACP) to decriminalize simple drug possession.

The association calls the law ineffective and that it doesn’t save lives.

Read more: Canadian police chiefs call for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Regina Police Service (RPS) said people who are fighting an addiction need help from social services and healthcare workers.

“Finding ways to help the individual get healthy is much better than putting handcuffs on a person and charging them,” Chief Evan Bray said.

Between Jan. 1 and May 4, RPS reported an increase in overdoses with more than 230 in that time span – an exponential increase compared to 2019.

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Read more: Canada’s police chiefs support decriminalizing drug possession. Is change coming?

Saskatoon has also seen a rise in the number of overdose calls.

Paramedics responded to around 260 in May alone, which is more than the amount that took place in Edmonton — a city with about three times the population.

Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) said if a plan is put in place, investment would be needed to make sure health care and social workers can intervene almost immediately with police.

“So that diversion would be into some programming that would be mandatory for people to attend. And they could hopefully receive assistance with their substance-use issues,” Supt. Dave Haye told Global News.

Read more: Overdoses, Narcan use spike to record levels in Saskatoon: Medavie

He holds positions on police drug committees for both the provincial and federal police chief associations.

Haye added Saskatoon’s officers don’t actively pursue possession charges for small amounts and if someone actively hands drugs to police, officers will approach that case with common sense.

Last week, the federal health minister and attorney general said Ottawa is committed to a compassionate approach to Canada’s opioid crisis, but didn’t say whether the federal government will be looking into decriminalization specifically.

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Canada’s police chiefs want simple drug possession decriminalized
Canada’s police chiefs want simple drug possession decriminalized