The Regina Police Service is a bit red in the face after charging a man in a way that violates a new federal law.
On Sept. 3, police were called to a hotel on Victoria Avenue East where a man was suspected of overdosing on drugs. The man was stabilized by EMS and taken to hospital, but officers stayed behind and searched the room. They said they found cocaine and methamphetamine.
Randal Ross Rochat, 43, was charged with two counts of possession of drugs. However, three months prior to his arrest, simple possession charges in this situation became illegal.
On May 4, the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act became law. It’s meant to encourage people to call for help in the event of a drug overdose by protecting the victim and those who witness it from being charged with simple possession or with breaking probation, release, probation or conditional sentence orders.
The law does not protect people against charges for drug trafficking or production.
The federal government passed the law as part of its strategy to address the opioid epidemic.
Regina police sent out a media release two days after the arrest, and it wasn’t until calls came in like those from 980 CJME, that police realized a mistake had been made.
“We’re only human. Mistakes are made, but we’re all about accountability and transparency,” said deputy Chief Dean Rae. “So, if we do make mistakes, we’re going to make sure that we’re accountable for those mistakes and correct those mistakes the best we can.”
Regina police have asked the federal crown prosecutor, who deals with drug cases anyway, to look at the charge.
Rae explained that when new laws come down or changes are made a departmental notice is created and sent to all members. Watch commanders also explain what’s in the notice to all front-line members.
“There was maybe a misinterpretation, or some problems occurred, where it wasn’t applied properly — and that led to this issue.”
Rae said the notice itself on the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act was very clear.
“Maybe the explanation and the education to our front-line members wasn’t as good as it could have been. And that’s the part that we’re going to make sure that is done the next time so we hopefully avoid something like this in the future.”
A new notice of the Act has been sent out to all members again, according to Rae. It will also be highlighted in the service’s yearly block training in 2018.
Rochat’s charges stayed in court on Sept. 15, 2017, by the federal prosecutor.