Edmonton police officers sent to hospital after fentanyl investigation

Two Edmonton police officers fell ill after investigating a fentanyl seizure this week, but have since returned to work.

‘These are the first two, to my knowledge, that were exposed to fentanyl,’ Deputy Chief Kevin Brezinski says

Fentanyl is so powerful that a single grain can induce overdose symptoms, Edmonton police Chief Rod Knecht said in December. (B.C. RCMP)

Two Edmonton police officers were sent to hospital this week after dealing with a fentanyl seizure, Edmonton's deputy police chief said Monday.

During a presentation to the Rotary Club of Edmonton, Deputy Chief Kevin Brezinski mentioned the incident while speaking about the risks fentanyl investigations pose for police officers.

"They were both drug investigations where the members had handled a container and shortly after the side effects, such as being nauseous and elevated heart rate, came to our attention," Brezinski said.

"So they were taken to the hospital and shortly thereafter were released. But it just kind of tells that fentanyl, as we know, is a dangerous drug and it's affecting our membership, as well," he added.

"It's not frequent. These are the first two, to my knowledge, that were exposed to fentanyl."

Deputy chief Kevin Brezinski spoke to the Rotary Club of Edmonton on Monday to discuss how the city has changed over the past 10 years. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

He said both officers were wearing protective gloves and taking "other precautions" when they came in contact with a pill bottle.

"It's definitely concerning," he said. 

"I know it's happening across the world but we do have precautions and measures in place to ensure that our members are safe. Unfortunately in these circumstances they were exposed to a substance unknowingly and then were later taken to hospital."

In December, Edmonton police Chief Rod Knecht said he was worried about the city's officers coming across fentanyl more frequently.

At the time, EPS officers were being trained to use naloxone, an antidote used during a fentanyl overdose, on overdose victims. Knecht said it was also to protect officers.

Fentanyl is so powerful that a single grain can induce overdose symptoms, Knecht said in December.

He cited an RCMP video about two B.C. police officers who suffered on-the-job fentanyl exposure.

In the video, Const. Dawn Adams said white powder got onto her face after she unfolded a piece of paper she found near a slumped-over man.

According to a September report from the Alberta government, 96 people died of fentanyl-related drug overdoses in Edmonton between January and August. In all of 2016, 118 people died of fentanyl overdoses.