The Progressive Conservative government sent a release on Tuesday morning, stating “Ontario’s Government for the People is helping police officers save lives by enabling them to carry and administer naloxone in response to opioid overdoses like other first responders, who do not have to worry about routinely being the subject of a criminal investigation.”
This is slightly misleading however, because officers have been officially equipped with kits since May.
What the province has done is amended Ontario Regulation 267/10, a key regulation under the current Police Services Act which required police to report to and be investigated by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) in an incident where a civilian dies after naloxone is administered. With the change, Chiefs of Police will no longer be required to automatically notify when SIU when a police officer administers naloxone or other emergency first aid to a person who dies or suffers a serious injury, so long as there was no other interaction that could have caused the death or serious injury.
“As first responders, police provide critical life-saving treatment to individuals in crisis,” said Attorney General Caroline Mulroney. “This amendment under the Police Services Act provides fairness to police officers and will allow for a more efficient and effective use of investigative resources.”
According to the government, police officers will now be on par with other emergency first responders—such as paramedics or firefighters—who can carry and administer naloxone but are not subject to the same level of oversight. The government’s release described this as “a significant change as police officers are often the first to arrive on the scene in a medical emergency and do what any first responder would do: they try to save a life.”
When asked about the impacts of this change on drug users and on officers responding, Spina stated they are pretty minimal. This approach will, however, reduce scrutiny that police face when making quick decisions to save a life.