Pubdate: Thu, 13 Apr 2017
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Authors: Liam Casey and Peter Cameron
Page: A3


TORONTO - Ontario's two largest police services have stepped up
training for their officers to better detect drugged driving as
legislation on legalizing marijuana looms in Ottawa.

Both Toronto police and Ontario Provincial Police are waiting to pore
over the federal government's much-anticipated pot bill, which is
expected to be tabled on Thursday, with a keen eye on provisions
around impaired driving related to the drug.

In Toronto, about a dozen officers are being trained each month in
field sobriety testing, a series of physical movements used by police
to test for drug impairment, according to Const. Clint Stibbe of the
service's traffic services. There are already about 200 officers
trained in that area, he said.

The service is also expanding its team of drug recognition evaluators
- - officers who interview and further test individuals who have been
arrested on suspicion of drugged driving.

One new officer will be added to the team this year, and three more
will be added next year, Stibbe said, noting there are currently 15
drug recognition evaluators on the service. One is available 24 hours
a day.

The Toronto team is part of more than 200 drug recognition evaluators
across the province, the OPP said.

OPP Sgt. Peter Leon said the provincial service has 85 such officers
of its own and more are being trained every month.

While both Stibbe and Leon were leery of predicting the future given
the unknowns of the upcoming marijuana legislation, they were bracing
for an uptick in drugged driving.

"We really hope we don't see a rise in impaired driving because of
marijuana legalization, but we have to prepare as if we will see an
increase," Leon said. Stibbe agreed. "We are erring on the side of
caution and expect to see a rise," he said. "But we've already seen a
rise in drug-impaired driving, from 24 arrests in 2015 to 86 arrests
last year, which is a threefold increase. That increase could also be
explained by better training and detection on our officers part, though."

Data from Toronto police indicates, however, that drugged driving in
Canada's most populous city represents a fraction of overall impaired
driving arrests, while alcohol impairment remains No. 1 with 1,290
arrests in 2016.

Stibbe also noted that marijuana isn't the top drug detected in the
service's impaired arrests - central nervous system depressants that
include benzodiazepines and antipsychotic medication take that spot.

Currently, field sobriety testing and drug recognition evaluators are
two main pillars of testing for detecting drugged driving, Leon said.

The field testing includes a walk and turn, standing on one leg and an
eye gazing test.

The drug recognition evaluators can conduct comprehensive interviews
with further testing to figure out whether an individual is under the
influence of an illegal drug, a prescription drug or having a medical
episode. Urine is then taken and sent to the Centre of Forensic
Sciences, which tests for a litany of substances.

Police may also have another tool at their disposal in the future to
help fight drugged driving: roadside screening devices.

The OPP, Toronto police and the RCMP were involved in a recently
concluded pilot program under direction of Public Safety Canada that
tested roadside drug testing devices.

A report on cannabis policy prepared for Public Safety Canada notes
that the methods of detecting drugs in the human body are "still far
from perfect."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt