Vancouver police have asked the city for $700,000 to prevent officers from being exposed to harmful substances like fentanyl.
The department is looking to building a new facility to test drugs they seize, especially with the sharp rise in the amount of fentanyl officers encounter on the streets.
“We are paving the way for this, so we are one of the first,” spokesperson Sgt. Jason Robillard said. “But this may be something other police departments might be looking at.”
Robillard declined to say how many officers have been exposed to the opioid, citing privacy concerns, but did say it “wouldn’t surprise” him if officers were coming across it every day.
He said the facility would be a controlled environment, with fume hoods, an emergency shower and a monitoring system, allowing officers to shut off air vents to the rest of the facility should an issue arise.
The force already takes precautions when dealing with fentanyl both on the street and inside its current facilities.
“If there’s an officer who comes into contact with some substance, out of an abundance of caution we take them to a hospital,” Robillard said, noting that it happens “quite a bit.”
Vancouver Coastal Health has the highest number of illicit drug-related overdose deaths this year so far.
According to a proposed 2018 budget, the facility would be the department’s major capital project for the year.
One portion of the funding, $500,000, would go towards construction and $200,000 would go towards outfitting the containment facility with equipment.
City council is expected to vote on the 2018 budget in a meeting Wednesday morning.