EDMONTON – After an 18-month legal battle – which began when he was arrested for refusing to provide a breath sample – M.P. Peter Goldring says more information needs to be shared about breathalyzer procedures and testing.
“This is all about police integrity and it’s all about having the proper procedures followed, so that we all know what the proper procedures are and that the proper procedures are being followed,” Goldring told Global News Tuesday.
In 2011, Goldring was arrested after a holiday party on grounds that he refused to provide a breath sample. He was acquitted of charges in June.
In a letter to the Edmonton Journal, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Edmonton-East criticizes the Edmonton Police Service for not making the rules and regulations regarding Check-Stops clear.
“If we were to ask the public, many, many people have been tested wrong,” said Goldring. “One of the most important … things about being tested is do the police ask you if you had a recent drink, and if you just had a recent drink, they are not supposed to test for 15 minutes, because if they do so, you could falsely trigger the test over.”
In the letter, Goldring calls for more education about how Check-Stops work, specifically breathalyzer testing and procedure. He even questions if Edmonton police members are using the machines properly.
“There is protocol for them and it’s very important to follow them. If you follow it, they’re very, very good machines.”
When asked if he was suggesting that Edmonton police aren’t following the proper procedures with the testing machines, Goldring replied: “Not in all cases.”
Goldring also takes aim at MADD; saying the group is sending mixed messages to drivers.
“The public was confused and the public was not sure…For example, even MADD – MADD, on one hand says ‘don’t drink and drive,’ but on the other hand, they say on their website, ‘go ahead, you can have a drink or two and be ok.’ Well, you’re not going to be okay if the testing isn’t done right.”
However, MADD defends posting information on what constitutes a suspension under the new impaired driving laws on its website.
“We provide educational information to the public,” says Andrew Murie, CEO of MADD Canada, “and that doesn’t mean we’re saying it’s OK to drink up to those limits. We just provide that information to the public, so if they’re making choices, it’s an informed choice. It’s not like us saying ‘have a couple of drinks and drive.’”
MADD’s CEO stresses the organization’s ‘don’t drink and drive’ message hasn’t changed in thirty years. Murie sees Goldring’s efforts as a public relations move.
“I think he’s on a PR exercise to, you know, sort of push himself as the innocent person in it… I think he’s just trying to go on a loose goose chase down a road to kind of paint himself as ‘poor me,’ where he should be counting his lucky stripes.”
Still, Goldring has come up with a number of suggestions to help improve public awareness about impaired driving and Check-Stops.
He suggests licensed dining establishments provide brochures to the public explaining what one or two drinks with a meal really mean in terms of the impairment laws, while also explaining individual rights if a person is stopped by police.
He would also like to see police communications during traffic stops recorded.
Goldring is planning on providing Edmonton residents with pamphlets containing information on Check-Stop rules and rights. He says the information is not meant to be used to avoid being charged.
“No, no. It’s more to protect people and make sure that they don’t get false reads.”
He also says he’s looking at introducing a bill in parliament to clarify breathalyzer testing procedures.
And, he’s in the process of organizing a town hall meeting to discuss the issues. He’s invited the Edmonton police to participate.
“I don’t have an issue with them,” he says. “I’m looking forward to the town hall… but the initial response I received back from them was that it’s not in their mandate and they don’t care to discuss it, but I think it’s an important issue that must be discussed.”
Both EPS and the Solicitor General’s office declined to comment on the letter and this report.
With files from Jenna Bridges, Global News