Decriminalizing the simple possession of drugs is beneficial for society: Regina police chief

A motion to research decriminalizing the simple possession of drugs was approved in a board of police commissioners meeting Tuesday.

Police chief Evan Bray said he supports creating a report researching decriminalization

Evan Bray, Regina's police chief, said the motion is a natural step going forward. (CBC News)

The chief of the Regina Police Service said decriminalizing the simple possession of drugs is a step in the right direction.

"I think we can all agree that if you are able to do something that helped people get healthy, not find themselves vulnerable to crime or committing crime, the cost savings are exponential," said Evan Bray. 

Bray was speaking at the board of police commissioners meeting on Tuesday.

The board passed a motion to develop a report that would look at the feasibility of decriminalizing simple possession of drugs in Regina. 

The motion was put forth by councillor Andrew Stevens and it calls for research into decriminalizing small amounts of drugs for personal use. 

Regina Ward 3 Coun. Andrew Stevens said motion will involve looking at simple illicit drug possession through a community wellness and public health lens. (Alex Brockman/CBC)

The board and the Regina police service will explore partnerships with the City, harm reduction experts and community organizations to create the report. 

The police chief didn't give an exact dollar value in terms of cost savings, but said there would be societal benefits. 

Police are already laying fewer charges on those with simple possessions of drugs. 

"Every single night, we have someone in the custody of our officers, who possesses an amount of drugs that would qualify for simple possession, personal possession under the CDSA (Controlled Drug and Substance Abuse Act), and every night our officers do not lay charges on the people that they find in possession - not every time, but it does happen on a daily basis," he said. 

Bray said there was a variety of reasons for not charging people — some of which include direction from federal prosecutors with regards to looking at the seriousness of the offence. 

Bray also said that a lot of the times when the police don't lay a charge it involves arresting someone for another crime - and then later finding a small amount of drugs on them. 

The person wouldn't be charged for the possession of drugs, but would be charged for other offences. 

He said that a very important part of the work going forward is the ability for police to compel someone to get into support service through a health lens, as opposed to the only option now which is to add another charge. 

Police have laid a total of 172 personal possession charges so far this year.

Overall, there have been 194 drug charges in 2021. 

The motion passed unanimously, and the report will be presented to the board in the first quarter of 2022.