A Winnipeg police officer was taken to hospital this month after accidental exposure to fentanyl, according to the Winnipeg Police Association.
Maurice Sabourin said the male officer came into contact with what they believe was the deadly drug while processing an exhibit at police headquarters. The drug was in a liquid form and some of it absorbed into the officer's skin, Sabourin said.
"Fortunately he's OK and he's recovered," Sabourin said. "This is just another example of how police work has become that much more complex and that much more dangerous for our members."
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A spokesperson for the Winnipeg Police Service declined to comment on the incident. The force's roughly 450 front-line officers are in the process of receiving training and protective equipment such as respirators and potentially naloxone, a medication used to reverse overdose effects, Sabourin said. In the meantime, he said officers are doing the best they can to keep safe but the risk is real.
"It can be inhaled and it can be absorbed through the skin so there are many ways members can accidentally be affected by the drug and it is so lethal that it takes a very minimal amount to cause a respiratory arrest," he said.
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Following five overdose deaths in a week in Winnipeg, Sabourin said it's clear the fentanyl crisis is not slowing down. He said officers are encountering the deadly drug daily and with the police budget limited to a one per cent increase over last year, Sabourin is concerned.
"The fentanyl epidemic that we're seeing right now is an additional draw on our members. The time that we have to take when we go to those calls. The precautions that we have to take," he said.
Mayor Brian Bowman said the police budget increase is now tied to the rate of inflation on the recommendation of the police board. However, on Monday the mayor hinted more will be done in the coming weeks to better protect the city's frontline workers.