SIU naloxone request 'nonsense,' says Ottawa police board chair

The chair of Ottawa's police board is urging Ontario's attorney general to step in and reject a demand by the province's police watchdog for notification whenever an officer administers the anti-overdose drug naloxone in the line of duty.

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Ontario's Special Investigations Unit wants police forces to notify them whenever officers administer naloxone in the line of duty — a demand the chair of Ottawa's police board calls 'nonsense.' (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

The head of Ottawa's police board is urging Ontario's attorney general to overrule a demand by the province's police watchdog for notification whenever an on-duty officer administers the anti-overdose drug naloxone.

Eli El-Chantiry told Radio-Canada Saturday that the notice issued last week by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) amounts to nothing more than "nonsense." 

"This has created another level of scrutiny. It's not needed. Because [naloxone] kits are given to anyone on the street by public health," El-Chantiry said.

"How come we can use them, but then if a police officer uses it to save somebody's life, they have to be subject to investigation? This is really [concerning]."

SIU directive calls for immediate notification

SIU head Tony Loparco issued the notice Thursday in a letter to Bryan Larkin, chief of the Waterloo Regional Police Service and president of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP).

In his letter, Loparco said he wanted "to be very clear" about the agency's jurisdiction regarding incidents in which police administer naloxone, and the obligations of chiefs to notify the SIU of such incidents.

The SIU investigates interactions involving police in which a civilian is seriously injured or dies, and the "administration, attempted administration or non-administration of naloxone" by on-duty officers could conceivably fall under that mandate, Loparco wrote.

Therefore, chiefs of police must "immediately notify the SIU of these incidents," he said.

Eli El-Chantiry, the chair of the city's police board, says the SIU's demand to be notified whenever on-duty officers administer naloxone is beyond the scope of the police watchdog's mandate. (Radio-Canada)

'Stay away from this'

Radio-Canada attempted to reach Ontario Attorney General and Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi on Saturday, but was unsuccessful.

El-Chantiry disputed whether the demand fell within the scope of the SIU's mandate, arguing that if someone died while a police officer was attempting to administer naloxone, the resulting coroner's report would be sufficient.

"If the attorney general changed their mandate and expanded it to [cover naloxone administration], well, that's fine," said El-Chantiry.

"But until such a time, I think the SIU should stay away from this."

Loparco's letter also pointed out that incidents where police have administered CPR or emergency first aid are "regularly" passed on to the SIU — and that he saw "no reason to carve out an exception in naloxone cases."

Community members would "fully expect" these cases to be referred to the SIU, Loparco wrote, even if no investigation was ever launched.

The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police has said they are also reviewing Loparco's letter and would be issuing their own response.