Sudbury chief says police 'drastically short' of officers trained to spot high drivers
Cannabis becomes legal in October, but will police be able to detect drivers who are high behind the wheel?
As police departments across the country scramble to prepare for legalized cannabis in October, Sudbury's police chief says there's a pressing need for more specially trained officers in the field to recognize high drivers.
Recently the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, which represents about 90 per cent of police agencies in Canada, said it is unlikely to reach its goal of having 2,000 officers trained to spot drug-impaired drivers when cannabis becomes legal later this year.
Sudbury police chief Paul Pedersen says his force is still "drastically short" of trained officers.
"We're not going to make the deadline," Pedersen said. "That I can say confidently."
"What I can say is there's a lot of encouragement from the province for plans in place to grow over the years."
Need to 'meet the gap' Chief says
One issue is the amount of time and resources it takes to train Drug Recognition Experts — specialized officers that analyze intoxicated drivers, similar to breath technicians.
Pedersen says there are only three officers with this specialized training in Sudbury, and to train more, officers have to be sent to a course in the U.S. That approach would amount to more officers pulled out of regular duty.
"The best research out there says the safe number of drug recognition experts is six DREs per 100,000 of population," Pedersen said.
"That means we should have approximately ten DREs. We won't get seven more before October."
In addition to Drug Recognition Experts, Pedersen said he wants to see every officer receive field sobriety training, to recognize drug impairment in the field.
"That training for us here in Sudbury would require us training all 120 of our officers, and as we stand right now we have 35 of those officers trained," Pedersen said. "So that's the gap that we have to meet."
Pedersen said he's not the only chief feeling the pressure of making sure his staff is prepared. Many police forces, he said, are vying for the limited enrolment places in the training programs.
"The training classrooms don't have that many seats," Pedersen said. "And every service from British Columbia to Newfoundland is trying to find training seats."