Ottawa

Ottawa police chief defends wait for roadside test options

Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau continues to defend his decision not to equip his officers with the one roadside cannabis screening device that's been approved by the federal government.

'We know that there are other devices that are being tested as we speak,' Bordeleau says

Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau says his force is focused on training more drug recognition experts and standard field roadside sobriety testers. (CBC)

Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau continues to defend his decision not to equip his officers with the a roadside cannabis screening device that's been approved by the federal government.

The Drager DrugTest 5000 was approved in August. The device tests saliva for the presence of THC, the main psychoactive component of cannabis. They cost $6,000 each and are about the size of a toaster.

On Wednesday, the same day cannabis use became legal across Canada, Bordeleau told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning he's holding out for other options.

"We know that technology is evolving in this field, and I, along with several other chiefs across Canada, have opted to wait until a new generation of technology comes out. We know that there are other devices that are being tested as we speak," he said.

The Drager DrugTest 5000 costs about $6,000 each and is about the size of a toaster. (Drager)

One problem with the Drager devices is their size, Bordeleau said.

"If you look at all the equipment that our officers are carrying in a vehicle right now, adding a toaster in a car is problematic. Also it's very susceptible to varying temperatures. So we're going to wait and see.

Bordeleau said he has no doubt the devices function as they're supposed to.

"I've never challenged the science, what I've challenged is the operational practicality of having [this] device used in the field 365 days a year."

Instead of equipping officers with the Drager device, Bordeleau said the force 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, he said.

'Look at all the tools,' minister says

Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Bill Blair, who is also a former Toronto police chief, said Wednesday he's "confident" the device can be used by police to keep roads safe, but that he can understand the hesitation.

"I understand the caution. It's new law and nobody wants to be first out of the gate. But these devices can also provide police with the important evidence that enables them to administer licensing suspensions, administrative fines and the towing of cars," he said.

"The first device is bulky and subsequent devices will be made available as they come online and are approved, but I really encourage law enforcement to look at all of the tools."

Will Bordeleau and Blair use cannabis?

Bordeleau: "No. I don't believe in it. Tried it once when I was younger, and I don't need that to add to my personal life. Quite happy with my health regime right now, and I don't believe it's necessary."

Blair: "Absolutely not. I never have in my life and I have no intention of starting, but I want to make sure that any Canadian adult who chooses to do that can do it safely."

CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning

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