Cen­tral Saanich first to set po­lice pot pol­icy

Times Colonist - - Front Page - LIND­SAY KINES

Cen­tral Saanich po­lice of­fi­cers will be barred from us­ing cannabis in the 24 hours be­fore they re­port for duty un­der a new pol­icy ap­proved by the dis­trict’s po­lice board.

Chief Les Syl­ven said the pol­icy was adopted Thurs­day night in prepa­ra­tion for recre­ational cannabis use be­com­ing le­gal on Wed­nes­day.

“On the one side, po­lice of­fi­cers are Cana­dian cit­i­zens like any­one else and have free­doms and rights like any­one else when they’re not polic­ing,” he said in an in­ter­view.

“On the other side, though, they have a very high-risk, dan­ger­ous oc­cu­pa­tion that they do. So try­ing to strike the right bal­ance be­tween those two po­lar­i­ties is what we’ve been do­ing for the last sev­eral months.”

Cen­tral Saanich is the first of four mu­nic­i­pal po­lice de­part­ments on the South Is­land to un­veil a cannabis pol­icy for its em­ploy­ees. The Vic­to­ria, Saanich and Oak Bay de­part­ments all said Fri­day that they are still work­ing on theirs.

Syl­ven said the Cen­tral Saanich doc­u­ment stip­u­lates that po­lice of­fi­cers must ar­rive at work fit for duty.

“That’s no change to the way it’s al­ways been be­fore cannabis,” he said. “A po­lice of­fi­cer can never re­port for duty un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol or any kind of drug. That’s foun­da­tional.”

The de­part­ment, how­ever, felt it nec­es­sary to add a 24-hour ab­sti­nence pe­riod for cannabis be­cause its ac­tive in­gre­di­ent — THC — re­mains in a per­son’s sys­tem for an ex­tended pe­riod.

As time goes on and there’s more re­search, the pol­icy might be ad­justed, he said.

Syl­ven said there will be no ran­dom drug test­ing of of­fi­cers, but they will be tested if there is a rea­son­able sus­pi­cion that they have vi­o­lated the 24-hour ban or ar­rived at work un­fit for duty.

“Our of­fi­cers are trained to de­tect this in other peo­ple, so that’s also some­thing that we will be re­ly­ing on, and the pro­fes­sion­al­ism of po­lice of­fi­cers,” he said, not­ing the Po­lice Act re­quires of­fi­cers to re­port mis­con­duct.

The Vic­to­ria de­part­ment plans to re­lease a pol­icy “in the com­ing days,” while Saanich of­fered no time­line for amend­ing its pol­icy on the use of in­tox­i­cants.

Oak Bay Po­lice Chief Andy Brin­ton said in an email that his de­part­ment ex­pects to fi­nal­ize a pol­icy by the end of Novem­ber.

“In the mean­time, we will de­pend on the cur­rent un­der­stand­ing by our staff of the fit-for-uty con­cept as it al­ready ex­ists for al­co­hol and other le­gal sub­stances,” he said.

Across the coun­try, po­lice poli­cies on cannabis use vary widely from one de­part­ment to the next.

Toronto po­lice an­nounced this week that it will re­quire of­fi­cers to ab­stain from us­ing recre­ational mar­i­juana in the 28 days prior to re­port­ing for duty. The RCMP is re­port­edly con­sid­er­ing a sim­i­lar pol­icy, while the Cal­gary Po­lice Ser­vice has banned cannabis use by sworn mem­bers whether on or off duty.

Ot­tawa and Van­cou­ver po­lice, by con­trast, have opted to place no re­stric­tions on of­fi­cers as long as they are fit for duty when they ar­rive at work.

The Cana­dian Po­lice As­so­ci­a­tion, which rep­re­sents po­lice of­fi­cers, ar­gues that the more strin­gent poli­cies amount to an “out­right pro­hi­bi­tion” on cannabis use. Tom Sta­matakis, as­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent, has ques­tioned why some forces are treat­ing cannabis dif­fer­ently from other le­gal prod­ucts — such as al­co­hol and pre­scrip­tion drugs — that can cause im­pair­ment.

“Ef­fec­tively, what they’re say­ing is: We don’t trust po­lice of­fi­cers to make the right de­ci­sion when it comes to re­port­ing for work fit for duty,” he said in an in­ter­view with the Cana­dian Press. “And I just find that to be an of­fen­sive ap­proach.”

Sgt. Paul Brai­ley, pres­i­dent of the Cen­tral Saanich Po­lice As­so­ci­a­tion, said the union be­lieves the Cen­tral Saanich pol­icy strikes the right bal­ance be­tween pro­tect­ing of­fi­cers’ rights and en­sur­ing their safety and that of the pub­lic.

“I know Van­cou­ver struck a ‘fit-for-duty’ de­scrip­tion and I know oth­ers like the RCMP are look­ing at 28 days,” he said. “But I think with what we know about mar­i­juana and the ef­fects and the longevity within the sys­tem, I think 24 hours was a fair com­pro­mise in the end.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.