In an effort to better identify people who are driving under the influence of drugs, Yellowknife RCMP are field-testing new roadside screening devices as part of a Canada-wide pilot project.
The device, known as an oral fluid screening device, tests saliva for the presence of drugs like marijuana, cocaine, opioids and methamphetamines.
In Yellowknife, mouth swabs are administered to drivers pulled over by police and then analyzed on the roadside by the machine.
“Our main role in this is actually testing the practicality in how members can use these devices and technology in real world situations,” explained RCMP Cpl. Todd Scaplen.
Scaplen says the way police investigate drivers under the influence hasn’t changed, they’re just testing whether or not the devices can be used accurately in the field.
“We have darkness,” Scaplen said. “We have cold, we have a lot of different environmental factors for our members to work in and around to see how these devices will work for us in a practical setting.”
The tests are administered only to those who volunteer, meaning if you get pulled over it doesn’t mean you’re required to give a swab.
If you do, however, your results can not be used to arrest you.
“There is nothing from these tests that will be used as evidence,” Scaplen said, adding that results can’t be used to suspend a driver’s license either. Those who submit to a test do so anonymously.
Yellowknife was selected by Public Safety Canada as one of the testers for this pilot project. Other divisions testing this device include the Toronto Police Service, Vancouver Police Department and the Halifax Regional Police Service.
RCMP in the NWT capital will continue with these tests over the next few months, gathering data before they send it back to Ottawa to be analyzed.
“Testing these new drug screening devices is an important step in our ongoing effort to enhance the enforcement of drug-impaired driving laws, reduce drug-impaired driving, and improve the safety and security of all Canadians,” said Canada’s Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale in a press release.
For Scaplen, any time the RCMP gets to use a new tool to keep people safe is good in his books.
“The goal of any of these initiatives is to save people’s lives,” he said. “And if we have further tools to be able to do that, I think it’s very important.”