Pubdate: Mon, 12 Mar 2018
Source: Lethbridge Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2018 The Lethbridge Herald
Author: Rob Davis
Page: A3


Last week there were two rallies organized to address the opioid
crisis - one in the city and the other on the Blood Reserve. On Monday
night, I attended the Community in Crisis March that started at City
Hall and ended with a candlelight vigil at Galt Gardens. Several very
touching speeches were given by citizens who have been impacted by the
opioid crisis and are determined to fight back.

Our Mayor and local MLA Maria Fitzpatrick also provided remarks
echoing the sentiment that this crisis sees no boundaries - it does
not discriminate. They also reaffirmed we must continue with harm
reduction efforts and band together as communities.

On Tuesday night, I attended the community meeting in Standoff
consisting of politicians, medical experts, educators, social service
providers, EMS, police and citizens. It also emphasized the importance
of communities in southwest Alberta continuing to come together and
the work that is underway.

At both events - I even saw signs at the march - people called for
addicts to be dealt with as victims of an illness and drug dealers to
be dealt with as criminals. As law enforcement we cannot turn a blind
eye to criminal activity, however, we can target our enforcement
efforts where they will have the most impact - the dealers.

When I spoke at each event, I was extremely proud to report how
closely we work with the RCMP and the Blood Tribe Police Service
(BTPS). In the rash of overdoses there has been incredible
co-operation between the agencies and it is this co-operation that led
to the arrest of one of the major dealers by members of ALERT.

The key to the arrest was information from citizens who have had
enough of the overdoses and destruction. These citizens worked through
the internal conflict about whether to say something or do nothing and
ultimately had the courage to come forward.

In my career I have worked through several drug crises in several
jurisdictions and it's always the same. People will say that everybody
knows who the local dealer is or who the main dealer from the big city
is then criticize the police for not doing anything. The reality is we
cannot arbitrarily kick down doors and arrest people based on a hunch
or what the community perceives as common knowledge.

Our judicial system requires that we obtain search warrants and those
have to be based in evidence. That evidence cannot be rumours, hearsay
or speculation. It has to be real evidence from the police and
citizens. It has to be information from citizens who are independent
witnesses to the alleged crime and who share their observations -
ideally people with firsthand experience and are legitimately in the

The quandary for the citizen is will they be identified or become
known. If you have information and want to remain anonymous, I
encourage you to reach out to the police and have a conversation on
what the options are.

Alternatively, time-tested Crime Stoppers continues to be a viable
mechanism for citizens to anonymously share information and it works.
he choice to share the information is up to the individual but if one
chooses to not share it they should not be critical of the police for
not doing anything. We need to operate within the parameters of the

Another comment I heard at the two rallies from citizens was, "nothing
will happen to the dealers anyway." There was also a reference at the
meeting on Tuesday about how a local dealer had been arrested,
released on minimal bail and was "right back at it" with the
suggestion the police had failed.

I empathize with these comments but I must clarify the role of the
police is enforcement - to gather evidence, lay charges and get the
accused before the courts. The outcome for a drug dealer depends on
the bail hearing, a successful prosecution, a guilty verdict and the
sentence imposed by the judge. We - citizens and police - cannot
control the dynamics of the judiciary. However, the first step to
disrupt the criminal dealers is for citizens and the community to
mobilize and have the courage to get information to the police so we
can do what we can. Our efforts to target the suppliers and dealers
who flood our streets with these deadly drugs are ongoing and we will
continue to do all we can to impact the drug trade.
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