Police will not be exempted from notifying the Special Investigations Unit about cases where an individual dies or is seriously injured after being administered naloxone by a responding officer in an attempt to save their life.

The President of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police Bryan Larkin had written a letter to SIU Director Tony Loparco in January asserting that the police watchdog “need not be called” in such circumstances as it would be “no different” than any failed attempt to administer emergency first aid.

Loparco, however, said in a letter released on Thursday that exempting local authorities from their responsibility to alert the SIU of any instance in which a person dies or is seriously injured following an interaction with police would be to “abdicate our mutual responsibility.”

In his letter, Loparco also flatly rejected Larkin’s suggestion that a prospective SIU investigation would discourage officers from “acting quickly to save lives.”

“The SIU rejects the contention that the vast majority of police officers might do anything less than act swiftly in the discharge of their foremost duty, namely the preservation of life, for fear that their conduct will be subject to a fair and independent investigation,” the letter states. “Conversely, a fair and independent investigation is precisely the answer for the small minority of officers who may have fallen short in their duty, a position with which the OACP presumably agrees.”

Loparco stated that the SIU is regularly notified of instances where “the extent of police involvement is initially reported to have been emergency medical treatment.”

He said that local police forces can rest assured that while some instances may result in “full investigations” others “may result in no file being opened at all.”

“The point is, those determinations must be made by the oversight agency,” the letter states.

Naloxone can reverse the effect of an opioid overdose within three to five minutes by temporarily removing the opioids from the receptor sites in the brain.

Though some police forces across the province do carry the drug, including Ontario Provincial Police, officers in Toronto do not.

In the past, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders has cited confusion over whether the SIU would be notified about cases involving the failed administration of the drug as one of the reasons that the TPS has not yet begun carrying it.

He has also said that Toronto police shouldn’t necessarily have to carry the drug, as other first responders usually arrive at the site of overdose calls first.

Naloxone is stocked in both ambulances and fire trucks in Toronto.