I have had the honor of serving the Medicine Hat Police Service (MHPS) as the Police Chief for the past nine years, and at the end of every year, when I report on the events and news, I am reminded of what a strange business we are in. Many organizations report profits, losses, new innovations and such but we are more likely to report the number of murders, mental health issues, new drug addiction trends and other tragedies and trends that we experience as a community throughout the year.
The early part of the year continued with the aftermath of three homicides that occurred in late 2016. All of those matters were all successfully investigated and are now at various stages of resolution in the courts. The rise of methamphetamine and heroin use in our community is unprecedented and our Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team (ALERT), which a team with both which MHPS and RCMP members working together in the Southeast Region of Alberta, have been working hard all year combating and disrupting the illegal drug trade.
We have had numerous successes in 2017, but the largest was a recent seizure of a kilogram of methamphetamine and 300 grams of cocaine, which is a very significant seizure. The proliferation of drug-related addiction has had a very negative effect on our community’s safety and security. Increased numbers of crimes such as thefts and break and enters have risen as desperate addicts seek the means to fund their tragic addictions. An example of the carnage caused by addiction was a fatality motor vehicle collision, which occurred in September and tragically claimed the life of an innocent and unsuspecting young woman on our streets in the middle of the afternoon. Firearms seizures have more than doubled from the previous year, which is another indicator of the increased violence in our community.
With the increase in opioid use and the extreme danger, which users and first responders face when handling and ingesting fentanyl and other opioid related substances, the Service took some safety measures that increased our officer’s and the community’s chance of survival should they ingest the drug. A specialized air handling unit was purchased and Naloxone nasal spray was issued to every first responder should this deadly drug was inadvertently ingested. The spray reverses the fatal affects when administered and of the fatal effects of fentanyl overdoses.
In 2017, forty-six doses were administered and as a result, forty-four have survived. I have heard some say that people who ingest those substances are taking an irresponsible risk and should be left to their own demise. We must remember that all of those folks have children, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters and others who love them. It is especially important to remind ourselves that the young and invincible make decisions that sometimes are not appropriate but eventually go on to be excellent contributors in our community. Forty-four souls are still on this planet because of the work of our first responders this year!
In the past few years and specifically in 2017, the Police Service been active in building cooperative partnerships and collaborations with other community agencies, to attempt to address the root cause issues underlying many criminal behaviors. Policing requires the expertise and experience of our partners such as addiction specialists, mental and physical health professionals, domestic violence outreach workers, researchers, and other experts field who work each day to help people in need. In 2017, the MHPS has seen the implementation of co-operative relationships with the Canadian Mental Health Association, Alberta Health Services and continued our relationship with the Medicine Hat Women’s Shelter, in order to address our greatest community needs. We are so grateful for our partnerships, which also include Provincial Policing partners like the Safe Communities and Neighborhood Team (SCAN) who assisted us in closing two problem drug houses this year.
While this has been a challenging year for us as a Service, it has also been so rewarding to be part of a team that is dedicated to serving this community. I want to thank all of our community partners and the citizens of this amazing community for the support we have received throughout the year. As Sir Robert Peel said, “Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public”. We are honored to have the confidence of our community and we pledge to continue to serve in a way that preserves that respect.
From all of us at the Medicine Hat Police Service we wish you peace and joy this holiday season and a new year of health, happiness and prosperity.
Police Chief Andy McGrogan has been a member of the Medicine Hat Police Service for 37 years, and has been serving as chief since 2008.