Overdoses mark tough year for Regina Police

With 2021 all wrapped up, Regina Police Cheif Evan Bray looked back at the year that was.

For Bray, COVID once again provided new challenges for the Regina Police Service (RPS), and though it wasn’t easy, he feels the RPS has done a good job handling COVID.

“It’s has been tough on frontline personal, not just police but anyone what works on the frontline of any agency through COVID has been a challenge,” he said. “We had to take a bit of a pause and listen to our frontline and hear about some of their concerns. We adjusted different types of service delivery; we changed some focus on how we were doing things to allow them a little bit more protection and, I would say, control of their personal safety. We’ve had a minimum number of our staff get sick, and we’ve been able to keep them and their families healthy, which is essential in us being able to still deliver community service through the work that we did.”

Bray said that the biggest challenge they faced in 2021 was with drug overdoses. In 2021, the City of Regina saw over 1,700 drug overdoses, with ten per cent of those being fatal. In 2020, Regina had 1,200 overdoses.

“That’s a high number in a community our size. We are seeing our numbers rivalling numbers that we are seeing in large communities like Toronto,” he said. “It really speaks to the urgency and the challenge that we have.”

He said it’s going to take police, community and government agencies all working together to try and find a solution.

“There isn’t one agency that has the perfect fix. We have to come at this from a bunch of different angles in order to be successful.”

Bray said one of the reasons drug overdoses are so high is because it’s easy to come across drugs in the Queen City.

“Drugs are fairly easy to come across. In some cases, it’s illicit drugs that are being brought into our community and trafficked to vulnerable people; in other cases, it’s people misusing or stealing prescriptions. Anybody that has some sort of substance use disorder or an addiction, we have to recognize it’s a health problem,” he said.

“It’s not a justice problem; they are not criminals, they may commit crimes while they are under the influence or while they are trying to fuel their addiction and feed their addiction, but for the most part, it’s a health issue. We have to find ways to work with health partners and others to really tackle it from that angle because that is the only way we are going to able to make kind of long-term sustained difference,” Bray continued.

Bray said that there are many things the RPS is doing to tackle the drug problem the City is facing, including the enforcement of illegal drugs.

“We are talking high quantities that are being trafficked to individuals into our community. They are most times being brought in, imported in, and we have to find a way to disrupt that. Our drug enforcement officers are doing that on a daily basis. Millions of dollars worth of drugs and proceeds of crime have been seized by our drug investigators and other investigative units to try and combat this program.

He noted that enforcement is only half the battle. They also have to help those who have become addicted.

“Harm reduction is something that you didn’t hear police talking about, even five years ago. It’s really about keeping people alive while we try to work on the long-term sustainable chance to get them healthy,” he said. “Putting handcuffs and taking them to jail is not solving their problem. It’s getting them off the street for a night and maybe preventing them from being victimized or doing something that would jeopardize their safety, but it’s not helping them with their sickness.”

Regina also saw a record number of homicides in 2021, with 14

Bray added he did feel there were some positives as they saw property crime decrease and the approval of the police budget.

 

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