DRUG TRAINING QUESTIONS REMAIN
RCMP Admits No National Protocols In Place For Controversial Program
There are still questions and concerns surrounding a Dec. 2 police drug training program. It saw drug users - including aboriginal sex-trade workers - recruited to show up high so police could study them in the wake of proposed tough new federal laws cracking down drug-impaired drivers.
The training sessions saw nine drug users show up at Edmonton's Metis Child and Family Services Society, 10437 123 St., to be observed by 24 law enforcement officials including a Crown prosecutor and members of the RCMP and Edmonton Police Service.
A social worker with the Metis society agreed to contact drug users so they could be studied. According to a police officer there, about half of the participants were aboriginals.
Police steadfastly defend the operation although it's ruffled more than a few feathers. There's an ongoing EPS internal affairs probe into the operation, which was launched after EPS received a citizen's complaint.
Some members of the aboriginal community aren't too pleased either, including a national Metis organization.
"By the Edmonton city police, the Crown prosecutor and the Metis social agency using these marginalized aboriginal women for experimental purposes and depriving them of their dignity - it's tantamount to breach of trust," said David Chartrand, vice-president of the Metis National Council.
He's demanding "an in-depth inquiry" into the actions of "all three organizations." Alberta's Liberal Opposition has called for answers from the province's solicitor general.
The Edmonton operation was part of a national RCMP initiative called the Drug Recognition Expert Training Program that began in 1995.
One aspect of the operation that has raised hackles are concerns that some drug-study volunteers had originally gone to the Metis society looking for help in getting clean.
In fact, the co-ordinator of the national program, Corp. Evan Graham, admitted some people who volunteered to get high for the RCMP training operations elsewhere in Canada were undergoing court-ordered drug testing.
So people are ordered by courts to stay straight and to submit to drug-testing and they wind up getting stoned for a police training session? What's wrong with that picture?
Graham, who attended the Edmonton session, wasn't aware of the specific backgrounds of the drug users who showed up to be studied in Edmonton. He said he didn't know if any were involved in court diversion programs that might have mandated they stay drug-free.
Shouldn't he know? Shouldn't somebody involved know? How can police figuratively turn their heads as people use illegal drugs - especially if there's any chance that one of those people might have been ordered by a court to stay clean of dope?
Graham reiterated that the nine subjects in Edmonton came in of their own free will and police didn't promise anything in return for their participation.
But did anyone else involved in this experiment promise them anything in return? Are street drug users really that socially conscious that they'd agree to do their own dope, then sit in a room on a Saturday to be studied by 23 cops? "The people we bring in are people who've made poor decisions and they want to give back to society," said Graham.
He said police didn't ask or know much about the individuals who showed up for this or past operation. "I don't even know what they did for a living. It's irrelevant whether they're a frosh student or a multimillionaire.
He says the participants are told: "We don't want to know what your real name is. We don't want any information that could tie you to being here."
Graham was candid when I spoke to him Friday, but that didn't serve to quell many of the ethical questions.
There is no official protocol for the national operations, he admitted. No doctor or ambulance was onsite, he said, arguing people didn't appear to be severely impaired but all tested positive for drugs in their urine - namely pot and crack cocaine. Volunteers don't have to sign anything. There are no police reports made after the operations.
Although the program started here in 1995 after being modelled after U.S. operations, there isn't even an RCMP website on it. Graham pointed me to a website for the U.S. program ( www.decp.org ), after which Canada's is modelled.
The RCMP corporal says there were five such training operations last year in Canada including in Winnipeg, Regina and at the Ontario Police College. A training program was held Friday in Moncton, N.B., and another one is planned for Alberta after April 1, he said.
Sun, 18 Feb 2007
Source: Edmonton Sun (CN AB)
Copyright: 2007 Canoe Limited Partnership.