How a retired Lethbridge cop influenced the SCS review panel

Or maybe it’s all just another coincidence again.

While doing some research for another potential story, I came across the agenda for the 27 November 2019 Lethbridge Police Commission meeting.

Item 11 mentions a public presentation by a Jerry Herasemluk.

Attached to the agenda was the following email, which was Herasemluk’s response to Tara Cryderman, who is a senior advisor to city council and fills a support role for the police commission.

According to the email exchange, Herasemluk had, at some point, requested to make a presentation to the commission—at the encouragement of city councillor Jeffrey Coffman—and Cryderman was following up on that.

Harasemluk claims that he has a 5-step plan that, if followed, “would absolutely significantly change the drug and alcohol crisis” in Canada.

He’s a retired cop of 27 years, who spent significant time with the K-9 division. In his letter, he positions himself as an expert on the drug crisis by saying that he was “in charge of the downtown” and that he spent 5 years “studying drug and alcohol addiction, homelessness, and those in need”.

(He didn’t specify if that meant he ended up with a degree in public health, addictions counselling, or social work. Maybe it meant that he read a bunch of random books and blog posts and watched a few YouTube videos.)

Attached to the police commission meeting agenda were the following images, which I assume are pages from a handout or screens from a Powerpoint.

Here are Herasemluk’s 5 steps:

  1. Judicial intervention
  2. Emergency medical aid
  3. Recovery and detox
  4. Rehabilitation and treatment
  5. Year-long programme (employment support, treatment, education)

The first step involves giving drug users a choice: incarceration or what he calls “voluntary treatment”. However, it’s not truly voluntary if the only two choices are jail or treatment.

As well, the emergency medical aid is only for those who choose the treatment stream. It doesn’t include medical aid for those in prison nor those who are on the streets. There is no harm reduction component.

The foundation of Herasemluk’s 5 steps is apprehension: because the person making the “choice” has to be brought before the judicial intervention somehow. Arrest them, then force them into treatment. Instead of treating addiction as a health crisis, Herasemluk wants us to treat it as a policing crisis.

In his email, he indicates that the province is moving forward with a “version of the 5-step plan”. He’s not clear on what he refers to here, but I assume that he’s referring to the drug courts announced this summer, which mirrors some of his steps.

And it’s interesting that he refers to the government’s initiative as a version of his programme, which seems to imply that his programme influenced the government’s direction on the drug crisis.

In fact, he does state that he presented his 5-step programme to the Supervised Consumption Services Review Committee during what appears to have been a private meeting.

Which is kind of odd, since the committee was supposed to specifically “evaluate the social and economic impacts of current and proposed supervised consumption sites”, not alternatives to consumption sites.

Coincidentally, the same week that the committee released their report, the provincial government announced they were creating a drug treatment court in Lethbridge.

For whatever it’s worth, Herasemluk currently owns a private security and investigation company.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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