A group representing police chiefs across the country has announced its support in decriminalizing illicit drug possession as the ongoing opioid crisis wreaks havoc on people across the country.
“Being addicted to a substance is not a crime and shouldn’t be treated as such,” Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police president Adam Palmer said during a news conference in Vancouver Thursday (July 9).
“Arresting individuals for simple position of illicit drugs is ineffective… it does not save lives.”
Palmer, who is Vancouver Police Department’s police chief, said that the CACP is recommending the federal government form a task force to research drug policy reform.
“Bottom line is addiction issues should be handled through health-care system,” Palmer said.
In 2019, the CACP developed a special purpose committee to focus on the decriminalization of illicit drugs, which included looking at various policies in programs being tested across the country to combat the ongoing overdose crisis and the implications those measures have on public safety and policing. These programs included supervised consumption sites, safe supply programs and diversion programs.
In recent months, the pandemic has indirectly caused increased drug toxicity among the street-level drug supply. As a result, B.C. has seen the highest number of fatal overdoses since 2016, when former provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall declared the opioid crisis a provincial health emergency.
The conference comes as the B.C. government is in the process of creating a working group to review the Police Act, amid growing calls to defund policing and instead focus that money on other social services to better serve Black, Indigenous and people of color.
More to come.
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