THE LONDON FREE PRESS
December 5, 2018
Police forces across Southwestern Ontario say they’ll be watching the impact of a Toronto-area police force’s decision to start publishing the names of impaired driving suspects before deciding whether to follow that move.
“This isn’t something that we’ve discussed. And while we can’t speak to another service’s decision, we’ll be watching with interest,” said Const. Sandasha Bough, a spokesperson with London police.
The recently announced decision by the York regional police was prompted by the consistently high numbers of impaired driving offences seen in the area. So far this year, York regional police have laid 1,400 impaired-related charges.
This past weekend alone, the police force north of Toronto laid 27 charges against 16 people, including a man who allegedly drove while his blood alcohol content was four times more than the legal limit.
“It’s clear that something has to change,” York regional police Chief Eric Jolliffe said in a statement.
“Effective immediately, York Regional Police will name all of the drivers charged with impaired-related criminal driving offences, to further make impaired driving socially unacceptable and so that members of our community can assist with notifying police if these offenders choose to drive while under suspension.”
The names of those facing charges will be shared on the York police’s website every Monday.
In London, by contrast, police usually only release the name of individuals charged with impaired driving in connection with significant incidents such as when there’s damage to property or injuries, Bough said.
Police in St. Thomas said they will be sticking to their current policy of only naming repeat offenders.
“We are not changing our procedures and practices at all as far as our impaired drivers are concerned,” said. St. Thomas police Const. Tanya Calvert. But “if there’s data that can prove that that method is a deterrent, then, by all means, we would take another look at it.”
Sarnia police Const. Giovanni Sottosanti echoed similar opinions, noting such a policy could likely have a bigger impact in smaller communities like his.
“Each region is a bit different and with York being hundreds of thousands of people and Sarnia being 70,000 people, it may have a stronger effect here because everybody knows everybody,” he said.
Though there’s no data supporting the effectiveness of the move by the York police, the head of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) say they are behind any measures that could help reduce the number of people driving under the influence.
“There has been no research on this naming, shaming type of (strategy) . . . so I can’t sit here and say — as much as I support what police are doing and understand why they are doing — I can’t guarantee it will work,” said Andrew Murie, MADD’s chief executive.
Murie said he believes powers recently given to police to conduct random alcohol sobriety tests will prove more effective, while also noting the force’s move seems to be getting a lot of public support.
“We have gotten a lot of phone calls and emails supporting this . . . from people who just want to say, ‘You know, we are sick and tired of this,’” he said.