Pubdate: Wed, 20 Dec 2017
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Toronto Star
Author: Betsy Powell
Page: GT1


Chief's comments come after confirmation that constable died from
fentanyl overdose

Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders says he's actively looking at drug
testing for officers in the wake of a constable's fentanyl overdose
death this year.

"I don't want to lose any officers to anything, especially drugs of
any kind and if there are things that we can do to reduce that, then
I'm very interested in that," Saunders said Tuesday during a year-end

Back on the job a little over a week after recovering from kidney
transplant surgery, Saunders said introducing drug testing would not
be some form of "gotcha." But it also falls to him to address the
"dangers of someone under the influence" working in law

Saunders said he has asked police chiefs in other major cities about
their drug testing practices, he said. An internal team is reviewing
that input and figuring out "what would the best procedure look like."

More than a decade ago, the late judge George Ferguson recommended
random drug testing for officers in "high-risk" jobs in a report aimed
at combating police corruption. The police board did not adopt the
measure after pushback by the Toronto Police Association. The Toronto
Transit Commission introduced random drug and alcohol testing of its
employees this year.

Const. Michael Thompson, 37, died last spring after working undercover
in the force's drug squad. The cause of death was confirmed months
later based on toxicology and pathology test results. An investigation
into his death is ongoing. The chief, interviewed in his office at
police headquarters, said he's well aware that Thompson belongs to a
mounting death toll attributed to opioids, which includes the highly
potent painkiller fentanyl.

There were 68 deaths in Toronto in 2017, compared with seven last
year, he said. The number of opioid deaths in Canada is expected to
hit 4,000 by the end of 2017.

Internally, the force is conducting a comprehensive review on the
implications of equipping front line officers with naloxone, a drug
that can reverse the effect of an opioid overdose. Rather than
focusing on law enforcement's response to the crisis - police respond
to fewer than 3 per cent of overdose calls - Saunders said he would
like more study on what is leading so many "normal" people to get hooked.

It was something that could have potentially happened to him while
recovering from his kidney surgery this fall. Saunders' wife, Stacey,
donated her kidney to her husband, who was born with only one kidney.
He discovered that later in life.

They are both making a strong recovery, he says with a wide

"We're both healthy and looking forward to a great Christmas."

Pain medication was a necessity after the operation, but Saunders, 55,
said he never worried about getting hooked. "No, I am who I am, I . .
. don't get addicted to things," he said, but added: "It has nothing
to do with strength or weakness."

The former undercover drug cop says he has lost friends to substance
abuse "and I can tell you: I'm a lot less judgmental than I was 35
years ago when I joined (the service.) It can happen to anybody."
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