From January to March of 2021 officers have attended 39 fatal overdoses. Over the same time period in 2020 there were only 12 fatal overdoses.

Author of the article:

Alec Salloum

Police Chief Evan Bray said the Regina Police Service may respond to a number of COVID-19 related calls, but very few warrant tickets. Photo by Michael Bell /Regina Leader-Post The co-called twin pandemics — of COVID-19 and drug overdoses — were among the topics up for discussion by the Regina Board of Police Commissioners.

From January to the end of March 2021, Regina Police Service (RPS) officers have attended 87 overdoses — 39 of which were fatal.

That represents a more than three-fold increase over the same time period in 2020, when there were 12 fatal overdoses.

The numbers comes from the monthly crime and call statistics reported during Tuesday’s meeting.

Over that time period, police are aware of 454 overdoses.

The statistics also broke down an approximation, according to RPS, of who is overdosing in the city: The average age of someone who fatally overdoses is 40; 63 per cent of overdose deaths in 2021 have been men.

The RPS also released their numbers for COVID-19-related calls in March, amounting to 75 calls for service and eight tickets.

During the meeting, Chief Evan Bray spoke on what enforcement looks like when it comes to COVID-19-related calls.

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“We have seen a decrease in the number of calls,” said Bray, though there were still breaches of the Public Health Order (PHO). “We a saw rally this past weekend and our police service was on scene for that.”

Bray said officers attending the rally wrote tickets, but still, the RPS are taking a targeted approach, focusing on ticketing organizers of rallies instead of every participant.

Coun. Andrew Stevens (Ward 3) asked how COVID calls were determined or differentiated between when several offences may be taking place at once.

Bray said if someone was ornery and refusing to wear a mask in a business, then that would qualify as a COVID-19-related call. If someone was receiving death threats for asking someone to wear a mask, then that would be a separate offence.

“There’s a huge variance between the number of calls per month and the number of tickets per month, what merits a ticket and what doesn’t?” asked Stevens.

Bray said the calls can oftentimes turn out to be nothing. He used the examples of officers showing up on scene and realizing the concern is unsubstantiated.

“A lot of the calls we get are for multiple kids in a park,” said Bray. “We’re not doing enforcement in that case.”

Events organized through Facebook or co-ordinated efforts that knowingly break the PHO are taken more seriously and are more readily ticketed, according to Bray.

The professional standards section (PSS) — which investigates complaints made regarding the conduct of RPS members — also presented during the meeting.

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Asked by Mayor Sandra Masters if there were any language barriers to people reporting their complaints to police, Bray said there were but translators are provided when needed and spoken statements were at times accepted.

Between 2011 and 2020 there have 158 substantiated complaints against members of the RPS, according to the commission.

Substantiated allegations about RPS officers are sent to the chief who makes a decision regarding discipline, but the Public Complaints Commission has ultimate say over all complaints against municipal officers in Saskatchewan.

Stevens asked how many of the substantiated complaints resulted in direct discipline or consequences, but  Bray didn’t have that figure on hand.

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