Pubdate: Fri, 02 Jun 2017
Source: Lethbridge Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 The Lethbridge Herald
Author: Dave Mabell
Page: A3


Police chief updates SACPA audience

"Catch and release" may work with fish conservation, but it's no
answer to the issues of drug addiction.

That's the word from Rob Davis, Chief of the Lethbridge Police
Service. He says repeatedly arresting people addicted to alcohol or
drugs and then releasing them - with no assistance offered - is very
expensive and it solves nothing.

"That's what we were doing," and so were police services across the

But Lethbridge has a myriad of social service agencies, he told a
Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs audience Thursday, and now
police officers make an effort to connect repeat customers with an
appropriate service agency as they're released.

"This city is right for harm reduction to be successful."

Lethbridge has many resources to help people with addictions and their
root causes, Davis said. They're waiting for city and provincial
officials to identify a site for a detox centre, he added.

Davis told questioners Lethbridge residents should also consider the
advantages of a safe injection site - successful for many years in
Europe, now being planned for Edmonton - as well as a medical-model
rehabilitation centre for men and women addicted to fentanyl and other
life-threatening drugs. "We have to be open to trying it." Unlike
older addictions like heroin, found in the poorest areas of some
cities, Davis said fentanyl users can be found in all parts of
Lethbridge. Some addicts may be holding a job, and paying for $25
pills from their earnings. Others may rely on robberies,
break-and-enter incidents or vehicle thefts to satisfy their habit.

"There's a spike in property crime, directly related to addictions,"
he reported.

While a harm reduction approach is the most effective response to an
addict's situation, Davis said strong action against drug dealers is
also important.

"There's a definite need for proactive policing," and Lethbridge
police continue to work with RCMP, the Blood Tribe Police and other
agencies as they uncover and shut down "drug houses" across the region.

Local dealers are part of highly profitable drug distribution
networks, Davis said. The drug merchants are key players in "organized

And "the government should recognize it for what it

Responding to other questions, Davis said Lethbridge police are
trained to de-escalate situations rather than drawing their guns. As
an example, a kind of "beanbag shotgun" is used in mental health
situations, where cooling-down dialogue won't work. While the person
in distress will be bruised, emergency room personnel can respond to
the important issues as soon as the person is taken to the hospital.

Lethbridge police are also working with Alberta Health Services to add
a mental health professional to the police service, Davis said.

Non-criminal matters arising from substance abuse, addictions or
mental illness represent about 80 per cent of the public's calls for
help, Lethbridge statistics show.
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