Red Deer RCMP are bracing for Oct. 17.
“We’re about as ready as we could be,” said Jeff McBeth, Red Deer RCMP staff sergeant, referring to the training the officers have gone through and continue to go through.
But with recreational cannabis legalization just around the corner, Red Deer doesn’t have its saliva screening equipment to test for THC yet.
“I would imagine we would be getting it very, very soon. We wouldn’t go unprepared in a major city in Alberta,” said McBeth.
Liberals have approved the Drager DrugTest 5000 – the first saliva screening equipment to be used by law enforcement to test for THC.
In September, national RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Marie Damian said the force will have a strategic, limited rollout of the device in consultation with provincial and municipal partners.
Standardized field sobriety test and drug recognition experts will continue to be the primary enforcement tools, she said in a statement.
“Roadside drug screening equipment will provide an additional tool to help Canadian police officers detect and investigate drug-impaired drivers,” she said.
McBeth said RCMP officers in Red Deer have and still continue to go through standardized field sobriety test (SFST) and drug recognition expert (DRE) training. It’s unknown how many members have been trained out of the 171 officers in Red Deer.
“I know first hand that many of our members are trained in one or both,” said McBeth.
“In due time, everybody will be trained.”
The SFST is an online course that both the officers and the staff at the detachment are taking.
“A SFST test is typically administered roadside and consists of a police officer putting a suspected impaired driver through a series of standardized sobriety tests,” the RCMP website states.
McBeth explained the drug recognition expert training is an advanced course and not every officer would need it.
He said officers would be able to determine whether they’re dealing with drugs, and if they are, a certified expert would be called to the scene.
“Whether that’s slurred words, change in the eyes, their ability or inability to grab their licence correctly, their registration – so once members have gone through those steps, and if they are dealing with drugs, then the member would refer them to a DRE,” McBeth explained.
Not everyone is trained, but that won’t affect safety.
“I know we’re ready. We’ve known about this for a little while, so it’s not a shock at all. Is everybody trained? No, not everybody is trained, but we have enough people trained that the roads of Red Deer are safe,” he said.
The RCMP confirmed Wednesday it will enact a stringent policy — forbidding officers, and other employees whose jobs involve potential hazards or emergency duty, from using cannabis for 28 days before a shift. There is no time restriction on cannabis consumption for other RCMP employees, but they must report fit for duty.
At a background briefing, an RCMP official said the 28-day limit is based on a consensus that THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, should have left a person’s system by that point.
With files from the Canadian Press