City seeks federal, provincial money for more police around safe consumption site

The City of Saskatoon will be asking the federal and provincial government for support to ensure there are adequate police resources in place when the province's first safe consumption site opens.

Police service wants to ensure it's prepared when the safe consumption site opens

A meeting of the Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners on Aug. 22, 2019. (Morgan Modjeski/CBC)

The City of Saskatoon will be asking the federal and provincial government for support to ensure there are adequate police resources in place when the province's first safe consumption site opens. The motion was made by Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark at the Board of Police Commissioners meeting on Thursday.

At the meeting, Insp. Cameron McBride presented a report he compiled after visiting four safe consumption sites in Alberta.

McBride's report indicated police resources may be strained by the site, because it won't have its own security. He said Saskatoon Police Service should consider increasing staffing to ensure a "seamless start up." One extra two-member patrol car per-shift, a total of eight officers, should be considered to mitigate any issues.

Insp. Cameron McBride with the Saskatoon Police Service speaks with the Board of Police Commissioners on Aug. 22, 2019 about research he did at four other safe consumption sites in Canada. (Morgan Modjeski/CBC)

The report also indicated that an "immediate plea" for federal and provincial funding is necessary to ensure police resources are ready to go. The safe consumption site in Saskatoon will be run by AIDS Saskatoon and has already received approval from Health Canada. It will serve as a space where drug users can consume drugs under supervision, but it will also provide them access to social supports and addictions services.

AIDS Saskatoon says all levels of government need to be at table

Jason Mercredi, executive director with AIDS Saskatoon, said the ask for support from other levels of government is encouraging.

"We're pleased," he said.

"We've been working with a lot of community partners to get this off the ground since the inception and I think it is going to take different levels of governments coming to the table to make sure that this is successful and we do it in the right way."

McBride's report also indicated officers need to receive education so that members understand the role they play in harm reduction for addicts.

Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark said there are too many cases in other cities where safe consumption sites opened without an adequate security plan or working relationship with the local police force.

"Our goal is community safety. Our goal is the ability to respond to any issues that arise and build that environment of safety so that there's a net-benefit to the consumption site, because I know in Pleasant Hill there's a lot of people shooting up in alleys," he said.

Clark said the site is a good thing, but resources need to be in place so police can address any issues there in a quick and appropriate way. 

"There's a school nearby. There's families that live in the area. They need to feel safe as this unfolds and we need to work with other levels of governments to do it. It can't be on the backs of municipal taxpayers to address these health and social issues."

Police want to take proactive approach

Saskatoon Police Chief Troy Cooper speaks with members of the media following the Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners meeting on Aug. 22, 2019 at Saskatoon City Hall. (Morgan Modjeski/CBC)

Saskatoon police Chief Troy Cooper said the city will benefit from harm reduction initiatives like a safe consumption site, but noted they do come with costs and the service will be working with its partners to try and locate a funding source. 

Cooper said it has "yet to be seen" whether an increased police presence at the site will be extended after its initial opening, but he said it's important the police service is prepared. 

"We do think that it's valuable and efficient to put additional resources in early, rather than trying to clean up something that becomes unmanageable later on."

The Saskatoon Police Service is now developing a plan to deal with any potentially negative effects on the community surrounding the site.


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