Senior BC police officers say BC has gotten worse since decriminalization pilot took effect

Senior BC police officers say BC has gotten worse since decriminalization pilot took effect

The British Columbian government’s drug decriminalization pilot program is once again at the centre of controversy after comments from two of the province’s most senior police officers.

Vancouver police deputy chief Fiona Wilson told the Standing Committee on Health that drug use has gotten out of control and that they are unable to do anything about the worsening situation.

“We now have nine exceptions to the exemption, but the reality is there are still other circumstances where the public have significant concerns about problematic drug use and when that happens, if it’s not in a place that’s an exception to the exemption, there is nothing police can do,” Wilson said.

The BC Association of Chiefs of Police initially backed the decriminalization pilot program but expressed dismay over its launch, citing insufficient consultation with police agencies. They voiced significant apprehensions regarding the absence of restrictions on drug use in public or semi-private spaces.

“We have been raising this issue since before decriminalization. What has happened is exactly what we predicted would happen,” Wilson said, according to Global News.

Her and Deputy Commissioner of the RCMP Dwayne McDonald were asked if they believed BC was better off after decriminalization, to which they said they do not.

Premier David Eby has repeated the talking point that decriminalization is keeping people alive and that the government tried to legislate exclusions for where drugs should be used, but an injunction from the courts stopped it from being implemented.

“In terms of the implementation of this entire project, we did it with the support of the chiefs of police and with all-party support, but I think all of us recognize that the program needs to respond and evolve to the concerns of British Columbians and what we’re seeing in the community,” Eby said.

Opposition leader Kevin Falcon has slammed the failed experiment, noting that a similar nightmare is unfolding in the US state of Oregon.

“Look at what’s happening in Oregon. In Oregon, they realized to their horror that the decriminalization experiment was a disaster, and if the NDP had just paid attention to what was going on with our neighbours to the south we wouldn’t be in the position we are today,” Falcon said.

Eby said that his government was looking at ways to enforce where drug use can be prohibited.

“We need to have a tool for police to be able to ensure that public safety,” Eby said. “I have the same concerns that many British Columbians do about public drug use in inappropriate areas, (like) drug use in hospitals. Unfortunately, the court’s decision has been a challenge for us.”

The province has seen record-setting numbers of drug-related deaths since the decriminalization program took effect.

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