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Regional police not using federally approved roadside drug testing equipment

In preparation for the legalization of cannabis in Canada today, the CBRP increased the number of DRE officers from five to 10 (five completed their training last week in Jacksonville, Fla.) and plans to continue training more officers in standard field sobriety testing.
In preparation for the legalization of cannabis in Canada today, the CBRP increased the number of DRE officers from five to 10 (five completed their training last week in Jacksonville, Fla.) and plans to continue training more officers in standard field sobriety testing. - Contributed

‘Tomorrow won’t look any different than it does today’

SYDNEY, N.S. — Cape Breton Regional Police (CBRP) won’t be using the federally approved roadside drug testing device because Chief Peter McIsaac has decided against them.

He isn’t alone. Many forces across the country, including the ones in Vancouver, Edmonton and Ottawa have decided to say no to the Drager DrugTest 5000, which uses a swab of saliva to determine the presence of drugs in the system.

Peter McIsaac
Peter McIsaac

McIsaac is concerned over the accuracy of the device because various studies have found the Drager 5000 has problems working in temperatures below four degrees Celsius or above 40 degrees Celsius.

McIsaac said another downside is the devices are “large and cumbersome.” With other roadside drug detecting equipment being tested McIsaac said he’d rather wait and see before spending money and time training officers on a device that could prove inefficient later.

“I have heard a lot of concerns about it over the last year and to be honest, where I have over 20 standard field sobriety test officers and 10 DRE (drug recognition expert) officers, I don’t see any value that the Drager instrument would bring to our organization right now,” McIsaac said.

“At this point of time, until the technology of those machines becomes more reliable, more dependable, less expensive, it’s really not bringing any value to our processes here… when determining if someone is impaired by drugs.”

In preparation for legalization, the CBRP increased the number of DRE officers from five to 10 (five completed their training last week in Jacksonville, Fla.) and plans to continue training more officers in standard field sobriety testing.

McIsaac also said mostly all regional police officers have completed all online training in relation to cannabis legalization (Bill C-45), amendments to the impaired driving laws (Bill C-46) and regulations governing both.

“We’re in good shape. We’re ready for this,” he said, noting based on the American experience of legalization there could be an increased number of impaired driving arrests.

“Impaired driving is nothing new … Any officer can pull over a car if they think they are impaired. If they see swerving off the road or show other signs of impairment officers can pull them over … They don’t have to have been trained in DRE or standard field sobriety tests to do this.”

RCMP aren’t as forthcoming with details on their use of the Drager DrugTest 5000 or how many DRE/ standard field sobriety-trained officers are stationed in Cape Breton. But they do say they plan to continue enforcing impaired driving laws like they always have.

Jennifer Clarke
Jennifer Clarke

“We’re being asked the same questions over and over and over again,” said RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Jennifer Clarke during a phone interview on Tuesday.

“From our perspective as police, we are going to go out there and enforce the impaired driving laws like we always do … Tomorrow won’t look any different than it does today.”

In a followup email Clarke clarified that for “operational reasons” the RCMP doesn’t disclose information regarding where DRE officers are located and said they are planning on increasing the number of DRE and standard field sobriety test-trained officers across the province.

The provincial government provided some funding to CBRP for DRE training, which is not done in Cape Breton. However, other costs like pulling officers off a backshift to cover officers in training or travel costs to places like Florida for the DRE training came out of other CBRP training budgets.

Currently, McIsaac and two other officers are working on a cost analysis of this is to be presented to government agencies with hopes of reimbursement. McIsaac said he spoke with the director of Policing and Public Safety last week and thinks reimbursement is possible.

With regards to officers using cannabis, McIsaac said CBRP released their Fit for Duty policy on Tuesday, which states the officer must use personal judgement to determine they aren’t impaired and are able to do their job.

“A lot of organizations went with 28 days after consumption of cannabis before arriving for duty … They are basically saying something is illegal when the government has passed legislation saying it’s legal to do it,” he said, pointing out they modelled their policy off a Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police human resource committee.

“We’re not treating this any differently than alcohol or any other type of drug … We have enough trust … that when you come to work here, you will be fit for duty and not impaired by drugs or alcohol. And you cannot consume alcohol or drugs when you are on duty.”

The Cape Breton Regional Municipality is also developing a cannabis use policy which McIsaac said CBRP officers will have to abide by on top of the force policy.


AFTER LEGALIZATION: ENFORCING IMPAIRED DRIVING LAWS

Cape Breton Regional Police

  • More patrols/ checkpoints: Not at this point
  • Plan: Same strategies as before legalization, more drug recognition officers
  • Use Drager 5000: No
  • Trained standard field sobriety test officers: 20
  • Certified drug recognition experts: *10
  • *Five added last week

RCMP in Cape Breton

  • More patrols/checkpoints: No
  • Plan: Same strategies as before legalization
  • Use Drager 5000: Won’t disclose
  • Trained standard field sobriety test officers: Won’t disclose
  • Certified drug recognition experts: Won’t disclose
  • Total number drug recognition experts provincewide: 61 (includes municipal forces)

Related:

• Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation has a return policy for cannabis

• Opinion: Will you partake in pot smoking?

• Cannabis rules: what to expect in Nova Scotia

• Take our poll: Will you purchase recreational pot?
 

nicole.sullivan@cbpost.com

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