Fentanyl crisis changes face of policing in Manitoba

Manitoba will spend $54,000 to outfit RCMP officers in the province with breathing devices, eye protection and special canisters to secure deadly opioid drugs.

Province uses funds seized from criminals to outfit RCMP with breathing, eye protection

The Manitoba government has used money seized from criminals to pay for new breathing and eye equipment for RCMP officers who may come into contact with fentanyl and other potentially deadly drugs on the job. (CBC)

Manitoba Mounties will get new protection from a tasteless, odourless substance that can kill: fentanyl.

The Manitoba government announced Friday it is spending $54,000 to outfit RCMP officers in the province with breathing devices, eye protection and special canisters to secure deadly opioid drugs.

"I'm pleased to announce our investment in specialized equipment and other tools that will protect our front-line RCMP officers," Justice Minister Heather Stefanson said.

The province is using money from the criminal property forfeiture fund to buy the new gear and outfit 1,080 RCMP officers.

Justice Minister Heather Stefanson says the province is still in talks with Winnipeg police about purchasing opioid protection equipment for officers in the city. (CBC)

"Fentanyl is endangering the lives of Manitobans," Stefanson said. "It can also pose an unexpected risk to police officers as they respond to calls for service."

RCMP Assistant Commissioner Scott Kolody did not have precise numbers as to how often officers come into contact with fentanyl but said there have been "a number of cases" this past year.

"It's prevalent and it's here," said Kolody.

In Winnipeg, there have been a couple of recent cases of police coming into direct contact with deadly opioids.

In May three officers self-administered naloxone, the overdose reversal drug, because they feared they might have accidentally injested the drug. And last November, an officer was taken to hospital after he was accidentally exposed to fentanyl on the job.

Winnipeg police and Mounties in the province are both already equipped with naloxone kits.

When RCMP see any type of powder or substance they are not familiar with, officers are trained to proceed with extreme caution, Kolody said.

"We don't take any chances," Kolody said.

The new breathing and eye protection will go a long way to supporting the health and safety of officers, he said.

Stefanson said the province is still in discussions with Winnipeg police about the equipment they need to protect officers from fentanyl.

Along with the new drug protection equipment, Manitoba RCMP are receiving $382,000 for new training and equipment, including road safety tools such as speed radar guns and licence plate readers.