Ottawa

Ottawa police looking to nab high drivers

Ottawa police have increased their RIDE program to look for impaired drivers since cannabis legalization has taken effect.

They're running more checkpoints in the wake of cannabis legalization

Const. Dany Laberge is a drug recognition expert in the Ottawa police traffic unit. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Ottawa police have increased their RIDE program to look for impaired drivers since cannabis legalization has taken effect.

Const. Luc Mongeon was the first to smell cannabis in a vehicle last night during a checkstop near Highway 417 and Carling Avenue.

He tested the driver of the vehicle after he had admitted to smoking a joint earlier in the evening.

"What we made sure tonight is that nobody is driving beyond the sign of impairment that would apply [for me] to arrest a person," Mongeon said.

"Because it's legalized we want to make sure people follow the rules and regulation of the law — that nobody's going to drive impaired."

Mongeon put the driver through the field sobriety test — examining his eyes, having him walk heel-to-toe and balance on one foot. The driver passed and was allowed to drive away.

Ottawa police were out enforcing impaired driving laws on Thursday, one day after recreational cannabis was legalized in Canada. 1:25

That road stop also turned up a small bag of dried pot, belonging to one of the three passengers in the car.

Mongeon placed it on the roof of the car and returned it to its owner after the sobriety test — but that may have led to a different result for the four people in the car just last week. 

"Depending on the investigation, [last week] they would've probably all been arrested, in handcuffs and charged with possession of cannabis," said Const. Dany Laberge, Mongeon's partner.

"Now it's legal. For us as police officers, it's a change in our mindset." 

Another man admitted to having smoked cannabis a few hours before being stopped and also passed the field sobriety test.

Police said Friday morning their officers stopped more than 2,600 vehicles and conducted three sobriety tests, but none of the drivers tested was deemed impaired by drugs.

Had anyone failed, Laberge would've done further testing as one of Ottawa police's 28 drug recognition experts.

Laberge has been trained on an additional 11 tests at the police station — including for attention, body temperature, pupil dilation —to determine what type of drug has led to impairment.  

Const. Luc Mongeon administers a field sobriety test to a driver after smelling cannabis in a vehicle during a traffic stop. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Ottawa police are not using the roadside saliva test that was approved by the federal government.

Chief Charles Bordeleau said the units were expensive and that drug recognition experts have a proven track record in court.

The Ottawa Police Service is increasing the number of drug recognition experts from 28 to 50 in the next couple of years, and wants to train all frontline officers — there are about 450 of them — on standard field sobriety testing.

Currently, about 270 officers have the standard field sobriety test training.

Ottawa police said they'd release the results of Thursday's RIDE (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere) checks around mid-morning Friday.