Prohibition took another strange turn this week when it was reported that RCMP officers in Alberta have started to strap on snowboards and patrol the Lake Louise and Nakiska ski resorts in an effort to deter “substance abuse”.
The officers, who are in uniform and carrying weapons, are focusing their attention on substance abuse on the chairlifts and gondolas.
“It’s going to deter people from bringing narcotics or have that second look of doing something on the ski hill because they know there is going to be a police presence,” said RCMP Cpl. Jeff Campbell, the detachment commander in Lake Louise. (…)
Two officers will be on patrol Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays as well as holidays including March break and Easter weekend. RCMP hope to expand the program once they have more officers certified.”
While the RCMP ski patrol is a volunteer program, it is still very much official police business and carries the full weight of the law. The program has been in effect since December with the primary focus being to deter skiers and snowboarders from using “narcotics”, but has thus far resulted in just one minor cannabis seizure.
Officials from Lake Louise have gone on record welcoming the RCMP presence, but have also made a point of clarifying that crime isn’t an issue at the resort, which raises a number of questions as to why such a program even exists.
With 65% of Canadians in favour of either legalizing or decriminalizing cannabis, should the RCMP really be expanding their efforts to clamp down on casual use?
The RCMP is touting the ski patrols as a “pro-active policing initiative” but given that neither ski hill (nor any ski hill for that matter) has any real need for a police presence, is it an appropriate and responsible use of police resources?
This program, which explicitly promotes the additional enforcement of a highly unpopular law, is emblematic of a much larger problem: the growing disconnect between the RCMP and the Canadian public.
An Ipsos-Reid poll from late December on public confidence in the RCMP found that support for the mounties has decreased sharply over the past five years.
In January, Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety, held a summit with law enforcement officials from across the country to discuss the economics of policing. The purpose of the summit was to examine policing costs, which reached a whopping $12.6 billion in 2011, and to discuss ways to make policing in Canada more efficient and cost-effective.
As the cost of policing becomes increasingly unsustainable and confidence in the RCMP heads downhill, chasing after pot-smoking snowboarders seems like a rather absurd waste of police resources.
So how could Canada lower its policing costs and repair public confidence in the RCMP?
One of the simplest solutions to these two critical problems would be to regulate and tax cannabis.
This would free up police resources currently being wasted on the suppression of a substance that the majority of Canadians think should not be illegal, while at the same time restoring faith in police officers by removing the burden of such an unpopular law.
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