The Delta Police Department is taking steps to provide its officers with naloxone, a “miracle drug” that reverses the effects of opioid overdoses.
On Sept. 15, the Delta Police Board gave the DPD approval to move forward on equipping officers with naloxone kits and training them in their use. The decision comes on the heels of a string of fentanyl-related overdoses in the municipality and the first of two forums on fentanyl held last week.
“There was discussion after [the Sept. 14] forum for us to consider whether it would be an advantage for police officers to be able to carry naloxone for two purposes: The first purpose is to make sure that, if we should arrive on scene first, there would be a potential for us to be able to help save lives. The second is for our own officers that run into it and may be exposed to it in whatever way,” said Delta Police Chief Neil Dubord.
Delta Mayor Lois Jackson announced the decision at the fentanyl forum at North Delta Secondary School the evening of Sept. 15.
“Today, at our monthly police board meeting, which I chair, we discussed this issue and our police chief Neil Dubord and his senior management have the support of the Delta Police Board to undertake the research and the potential implementation of our police officers carrying naloxone. And if our chief sees fit, we will ensure that our police officers, along with our first-responder firefighters, have the tools they need to keep the public and themselves safe,” Jackson said.
Several Lower Mainland police forces are taking similar steps, including the Vancouver, Abbotsford and West Vancouver police departments. The RCMP recently announced a similar national initiative after several of its officers were exposed to fentanyl on the job (see video at below).
DPD media liaison Sergeant Sarah Swallow, who is returning to patrol in October, said the near-ubiquitous presence of fentanyl in street-level drugs adds an extra level of danger to the job, but that having naloxone close at hand would help ease officers’ worries.
“Fentanyl used to be this sort of abstract concept that may or may not be in drugs, and then right around this time last year, it started being something where if there is drug, there’s fentanyl,” Swallow said.
“When we stop a drug dealer, particularly a powder drug dealer, you’ll see powder kind of all over the inside of the car just because they’re moving these packs of powder. [Fentanyl] changes for us our response to that and how we feel about that. I think as a police officer going back to the streets, knowing that [naloxone]’s going to be available for us and for each other will be a huge relief.”
Swallow said having naloxone on hand could also help save the life of someone already in police custody.
“I’ve transported people somewhere that have taken drugs, and they gradually get more and more into their high,” Swallow said. “What we may see now is, let’s say we have somebody in our car that we’re transporting and we don’t know that they just took the drugs and that they’re going to overdose.”
Dubord estimated the process of outfitting Delta Police officers with naloxone kits will likely take about 60 days – 30 days to do research, consult with other local police departments, Fraser Health and the provincial government, and build policies and procedures before reporting back to the police board for final approval, and 30 days to train and equip department personnel.
“Really, the easiest part is actually getting the naloxone and actually training our officers; I think it’s a very short training course. But it’s all the steps ahead of time,” Dubord said. “I think it’s a great initiative. I think it’s certainly progressive of our police board to be able to take such immediate action, and it speaks to their willingness to be able to assist in this situation whichever way they can.”
Watch the video below to see more about the risks fentanyl pose to law enforcement officers.