By Kalinowski, Tim on March 6, 2020.
Police Chief Scott Woods says he is concerned that two anonymous LPS officers’ comments included in the Lethbridge portion of the SCS Review Committee report presented on Thursday, could be mistaken for the Lethbridge Police Service’s official position on the Supervised Consumption Site.
“That was one officer’s opinion, and I don’t think we want to paint the entire police service with having that same opinion,” states Woods.
The report quotes what it says is one officer’s comments, stating:
“The SCS is lawless wasteland,” it reads. “Drugs can be readily purchased right in the parking lot. I have watched videos where SCS security staff are watching while the drugs are being bought and sold and say nothing. They say they are reluctant to call the police because it is frowned upon by SCS management and they don’t want to lose their job. SCS management make it very clear police are not welcome there and regularly complain if police try to do enforcement in the area.”
Another anonymous officer’s comments produced in the report state:
“There has been attempts by SCS staff to destroy video evidence. They had a pregnant lady have a miscarriage immediately after using their facility. They became offended when I asked what their procedures were for pregnant women and filed a formal complaint.”
Woods says including anonymous comments in a report of such magnitude is disconcerting on two fronts. First, because the officers who responded to the SCS Review Committee were likely under the impression their comments would be kept confidential, and secondly because the report seems to imply it somehow reflects the general experience and opinions of all police officers in Lethbridge.
“I don’t like the fact that, while our officers are certainly entitled to their opinions, I am not sure that the officer or officers when they were doing that survey knew that some of this stuff would be published,” he says. “We have to be careful that just because we have a couple of statements coming out of survey that it is not painting the entire Lethbridge Police Service as having that same opinion.”
The report seems to suggest, using these comments as reference, that the LPS also has a adversarial relationship with SCS staff.
Woods says there is no truth to that suggestion, and that SCS staff members have been co-operative and proactive in calling in police when an officer response is needed to deal with issues at the site itself.
“I would suggest we have a fairly positive relationship with (ARCHES),” he confirms. “I meet with them monthly, and I discuss any issues we may have. That’s not to say there hasn’t been some growing pains and some issues along the way, and that includes issues within our police service, too. We are far from perfect. We make mistakes, too. Again, I think that (quote) is one specific incident that somebody’s referring to. I think overall we have a fairly open relationship with supervised consumption site staff, and I think it is fairly healthy, in my opinion.”
Woods says it would probably be fair to say most of the issues his officers have with the SCS are mainly in relation to the crime which can, and frequently does, occur nearby, and not with those staff members in the facility itself.
“I think, to be frank, there has been some issues in and around that facility for a period of time, which has included some criminality,” he states. “We have made no bones about it that we have seen a dramatic increase in certain crimes from break and enters to certain facilities around there, thefts from vehicles and increases in some violence in and around there. I think some of our officers are definitely frustrated with some of the things they have had to deal with for awhile now (near the SCS).”
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