Drunk tank

The number of people lodged in the detachment’s cells for being intoxicated is in excess of 1,000 people on a yearly basis...

DRILL down through the quarterly Terrace RCMP detachment reports submitted to city council and one fact stands out – the number of people lodged in the detachment’s cells for being intoxicated. On a yearly basis, that number is in excess of 1,000 people.

Speak to any RCMP officer and they’ll tell you the majority of these cases invariably are street people, a revolving door of repeats locked up for their own safety and well-being as much as anything else.

It’s expensive and time consuming for officers who, no doubt, had other things in mind when they signed up for a law enforcement career.

And whether this is an appropriate use of a police force and its facilities for what is essentially an issue of addiction as opposed to one of criminal behaviour is a valid question for taxpayers.

In effect, the detachment’s cells act as a sobering centre, the term used for a facility where intoxicated people can be taken and safely kept until they sober up. Just as important is the offer of counselling and further services as a step to breaking the addiction cycle.

The cost of a modest sobering place of even two or three beds is something for public policy number crunchers to analyze by comparing to the costs of what is in place now.

But clearly an RCMP detachment’s cells should not act as a health care facility and its officers are not health care workers and counsellors.