Drug Addiction, Crime and the role of the Police Service in Harm Reduction


June 1, 2017 :: Rob Davis, Lethbridge Police Chief
Moderated by Chelsea Sherbut

As police services struggle to address addictions and spin-off crime, it has become clear the days of a law and order-only approach are over. Crime and disorder are the effect, not the cause and while the concept of harm reduction may seem contrary to the fundamental principles of law enforcement, the reality is we cannot arrest our way out of this situation.

There will always be a need for traditional proactive and reactive policing, but it’s important for the public to understand that only about 20 per cent of the incidents police deal with are actually criminal in nature. The vast majority of calls for service – roughly 80 per cent – are non-criminal matters that arise from social issues such as addictions, substance abuse and mental illness, and an endless cycle of arrest, detention and release does little to address these root causes or change the behaviour.

Over the past two years, the significant increase in fatal overdoses as a result of the abuse of fentanyl and other street drugs has been declared a public health crisis. Police have also seen a sharp increase in the volume of drug-related crime as addicts commit offences to fuel their habit or pay off drug debts.

To reduce drug-related deaths and curb crime and social disorder, the need for sustainable harm reduction strategies has never been greater. The Lethbridge Police Service is part of a broad-based coalition of leaders, including health, EMS, justice, post-secondary and municipal, public and social service sectors working to advance harm reduction initiatives that will not only support individuals struggling with addictions and other social issues, but help protect the rest of society from their actions.

Speaker: Rob Davis, Lethbridge Police Chief

Rob Davis has served as a police officer for 26 years and was sworn in as Chief of the Lethbridge Police Service in 2015. Davis began his career with the Haldimand-Norfolk Regional Police Service as a Special Constable while he was completing a sociology degree from McMaster University.

Over the years he rose through the ranks while serving with various agencies in Ontario, including the Nishawbe Aski Police, Six Nations Police Service and Dryden Police Service. He was also seconded to the RCMP where he served at the Canadian Police College contributing to the creation and delivery of courses designed to combat the impacts of gangs and organized crime on Aboriginal populations. Davis is a Mohawk from the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory and the only Aboriginal to serve as Chief of Police for non-Aboriginal Police Services in Ontario and Alberta.

Moderator: Chelsea Sherbut

Date: Thursday, June 1, 2017 Time: Noon - 1:30 PM (30 minutes each for presentation, lunch and Q & A) Location: Country Kitchen Catering (Lower level of The Keg) 1715 Mayor Magrath Dr. S
Cost: $12.00 (includes lunch) or $2.00 (includes coffee/tea) RSVP is not necessary


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