Pubdate: Mon, 26 Feb 2018
Source: Lethbridge Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2018 The Lethbridge Herald
Author: Rob Davis
Page: A3



This week marks a historic first for the City of Lethbridge. The
Supervised Consumption Site (SCS) will open its doors and will be the
first of its kind in North America to offer all four modes of
consumption - ingestion/oral, injection, intra-nasal/snorting and
inhalation. Despite this milestone, it's fair to say the facility has
been met with mixed reviews, including people who have come to me to
"blame" the police service for letting it happen. This not only
demonstrates a narrow view of Canada and our Charter of Rights and
Freedoms, but a failure to understand the role of the police in
social-political decisions that are driven by municipal , provincial
and federal officials and the mandate they support.

We are in a time where harm reduction is the common denominator for
all three levels of government. There is more than enough evidence
from the academic community to show incarceration alone will not break
the cycle of addiction and the crimes committed to support it. All
incarceration does is take the individual out of circulation
temporarily. The approach that has gained great popularity and appears
to have the evidence to support that it works, is The Hub model that
originated in Saskatchewan where chronic offenders are connected with
all of the services required to address the root causes of their
addiction. In Lethbridge we are not there yet but the SCS may be the
start toward a hub-like model. In order to address addiction there
needs to be a mechanism for the medical and social work specialists to
engage addicts in a non-confrontational environment. The SCS may offer
that setting.

Throughout the process of getting the SCS and working to address the
addictions crisis society is facing, I have repeatedly said we cannot
arrest our way out. At present, the powers of the police are very
limited as far as how long we can keep a person in custody. We may
catch an addict committing a crime but we have rules enshrined in the
Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Criminal Code and over three
decades of case law since the Charter came in existence that we must

The release falls to the police or a Justice of the Peace and we both
have an obligation to release the offender when certain criteria are
met. Short version - the idea that we could or should "just lock them
up and throw away the key" is not reality. While I appreciate the
stories of policing past - the so-called good old days when people
would get locked up for the weekend before they could cause trouble -
we live in a new reality that I as the Chief, the Mayor, our MLAs and
MPs cannot ignore.

In my policing career, it has been extremely rare when all three
levels of government are on the same page. It is even more rare to
have a genuine commitment to get things done in a timely fashion.

When the SCS was first discussed, I did not think much would happen.
It has been my observation from young Constable through to the
position of Chief that too many recommendations from high-profile
inquests fall on deaf ears and too many bona fide academic studies on
addiction and social issues have gone to waste because they get mired
down in political bureaucracy and shelved when there was a change in

This time was different. All three levels were elected relatively
close to each other and all shared a passion to get things done. I was
optimistically suspicious but once the wheels were in motion, it was
apparent the elected officials were unwavering in their support to
make it happen and they got it done. The LPS sat as one of many
stakeholders at the table but we were only one tiny piece in a crisis
that nobody in the Prairie cities saw coming, planned for, or budgeted

The concept of the SCS was researched and observed by practitioners
and experts from several disciplines, including police. But most of
those at the table had the credentials and experience from disciplines
that are directly responsible for tackling addiction and recovery. The
LPS sat at the table with an open mind. We know from tons of research
around the world that incarceration alone does not work (and costs a
fortune in tax dollars). At the end of many discussions, all
stakeholders agreed the SCS needed to be pursued as the concept has
been successful in other places.

I empathize with all of the citizens who have concerns about the
spending of tax dollars on addiction that could be spent elsewhere. I
agree with all of those who ask me "what about seniors on a fixed
income who have to choose between utility bills and groceries?" I
agree with those who ask me "what about the single mom or dad who
struggles to make ends meet?" or "the person with a chronic illness
who did not choose to be sick but must pay for lifesaving

It also resonates when people say spend the money carte blanch on more
police. All great points and the solutions, funds and concepts for
these fall to the local, provincial and federal levels of government
but do little to address the addiction issues we are facing now.

The reality is the police are only one cog of a massive machine trying
to grapple with a tidal wave of addiction nobody saw coming and that
is being followed by a surge of new and more deadly drugs. When we
have three levels of government working in harmony, it only makes
sense to try what the evidence shows has worked elsewhere. Will it be
perfect out of the gate? I doubt it. Will the SCS staff make
adjustments as they evolve? I fully expect so.

But make no mistake, as a police service we will continue to target
the drug traffickers who bring this junk into our city and are
responsible for the scourge of addiction we are facing. To the
suppliers and the dealers, it is you we will continue to vigorously
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt