Loading articles...

Could officer's overdose death lead to random drug testing for police?

Last Updated Nov 17, 2017 at 9:37 pm EST

The Toronto Police Service says random drug testing of officers is among several possible initiatives currently being discussed after a drug squad officer died of a fentanyl overdose.

With questions lingering following the tragic death of Constable Michael Thompson, Toronto Police are continuing to examine protocols and resources available to assist officers and screen for possible concerning behaviour, including drug use.

“What we need to be doing now and what we have been doing for the last several months is take a look at some of the wellness initiatives that we have in place to make sure we are supporting our members, particularly those who are in high risk units such as the drug squad,” said Toronto Police spokesperson Meaghan Gray.

When asked if random drug testing was possible, Gray admitted it was part of the conversation when it comes to possibly revamping the support systems for front line officers.

Currently there is no random drug testing for Toronto police officers.

Police say it’s unclear whether Const. Thompson obtained the deadly drug fentanyl through police evidence in his role on the drug squad, or if he purchased it on the street. They admit it’s a question they may never know the answer to.

But Thompson’s death illustrates why police need to closely re-examine access to evidence, Gray added.

“There were a few things that we discovered we were able to do to make that process even stronger,” she said.

Civil litigator, Selwyn Pieters, who has represented charged police officers in court, says the current system is sorely lacking the resources to assist officers.

“We’ve had situations in the past where officers have had addictions and instead of trying to steer the officers towards resources that can assist them what Toronto Police internal affairs did is launch criminal investigations and laid criminal charges,” he said.

But he admits action now to revisit the issues is “better late than never.”

CityNews reached out to the Toronto Police Union for a reality check from the rank and file on Friday. They declined our interview request.

Toronto Police provided CityNews with information about the divisions receiving regular wellness visits and annual mandatory screening. They are:

  • Child exploitation
  • Human trafficking
  • Child and youth advocacy centre
  • Cyber crime
  • Drug squad
  • ETF
  • FIS
  • Traffic reconstruction
  • Call takers in communications
  • Homicide
  • Anyone involved in overseas deployment