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Bylaw officers set to carry batons, pepper-spray, and handcuffs

They won’t quite be packing heat, but city bylaw officers will soon be carrying batons, pepper-spray and handcuffs.

It’s all in response to the changing aspects of the position as bylaw officers are more frequently encountering dangerous situations.

“Most municipalities now experience substantial issues involving persons with addiction and mental health issues as well as those who are precariously housed,” reads a report to council from Adam Davey, Director of Public Safety. “The provincial and federal governments now recognize these as social and health issues and not criminal matters. At present, there appears to be a gap in service response related to downtown disorder. The expectation placed on bylaw officers is that they will fill this gap.

“This situation has been apparent in the City of Prince George and led to the creation of a dedicated
team to patrol the downtown core as well as civic facilities, through a service enhancement in 2020.
Bylaw services in Prince George now has 21 officers that all have contact in their daily duties with individuals who are experiencing mental health issues, drug addiction and in some instances homelessness. They also come into contact on a regular basis with individuals that are angered by this situation and attribute the situation to inaction on the part of the municipality.”

This translates into a precarious situation for the bylaw officers on the street as they have limited legal
authority and currently no tools that they can use to protect themselves should their interactions with
the public turn hostile and potentially violent, he said. Bylaw staff do regularly take part in conflict de-escalation and other verbal training to de-escalate potentially volatile situations.

There will also be an expansion of the Naloxone Pilot program which has been very successful since it
was implemented in November 2022. Since that time, Naloxone has been administered on 21
occasions with success every time.

The changes bring the City in line with other provincial municipalities such as Penticton, Nanaimo, Kelowna and Maple Ridge.

Training will commence next week for use of the defensive tools, as well as de-escalation training and administering Naloxone.

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