Toronto Star (01.12.12) - Thursday, January 19, 2012
In interviews and focus groups, police in Toronto and Ottawa
voiced strong opposition to supervised drug consumption sites
(SCSs), according to a new study. The first analysis of
regional law enforcement perceptions of SCSs found police do
not believe the intervention is a way to reduce harm from
illegal drug use. Those interviewed, 18 officers of various
ranks, also said SCSs do not address addiction.
In the study, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair expressed
concern over "the ambiguous messaging that comes out from a
society that says you can't use these drugs, they're against
the law, but if you do, we'll provide a place to do it in."
"It's a little problematic when you're trying to explain to
young people about the consequences of illegal drug use," he
said. "And we are interested in trying to discourage them from
The police officers generally distrusted previous studies
showing public health benefits of SCSs, where drug users
inject under medical supervision as a means to prevent
overdoses and infections, including HIV and hepatitis.
Research has shown that SCSs have been associated with a drop
in fatal overdoses and public drug use, and with health care
savings, among other findings. The officers polled, however,
put greater stock in colleagues' anecdotes and their own
police work with drug-related activities.
A report on whether Toronto and Ottawa could benefit from SCSs
is expected this year. Such an intervention in Toronto "likely
represents good value for money," initial data indicate.
While small, the new study represents a good starting point
for addressing police concerns, said Dr. Chris Beyrer,
director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health & Human
The analysis, "Police Perceptions of Supervised Consumption
Sites (SCSs): A Qualitative Study," was funded by the Ontario
HIV Treatment Network and published in Substance Use & Abuse