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Canada’s militarized police forces face defunding and ‘de-tasking’, experts say

As a statement of police power, the armoured rescue vehicle that Halifax Regional Police had planned to buy for more than $300,000 spoke volumes about the militarization of law enforcement agencies in Canada.

The 8,000-kilogram, armour-plated truck — equipped with a rotating roof hatch, eight gun ports and a powered battering ram — looked like it was ready for the worst of war zones.

However, when the purchase was scuttled by city council last month, Mayor Mike Savage made it clear the brawny vehicle had become a symbol of oppression, particularly for Halifax’s Black community. The mayor said the money would be used instead for anti-Black racism programs.


Still, the police departments that have these vehicles argue they are necessary because they offer protection to officers and the public during mass public shootings, hostage takings and other high-risk scenarios.

Ottawa lawyer Michael Spratt doesn’t buy that rationale.

“Our police forces look more like military organizations — with automatic rifles and riot shields and tanks,” said Spratt who specializes in criminal law and policing. “There’s no need for any police force to have a tank.”

The Ottawa Police Service, for example, has an imposing armoured vehicle known as a Lenco Bearcat, which Spratt says has rarely seen service since it was purchased in 2010.

“When we’re talking about defunding the police … this is really low-hanging fruit,” said Spratt. “Even if there is some marginal benefit in some rare circumstances, the cost of having these vehicles — and inherent harm of having a militarized police force — vastly outweighs any potential benefit.”

Read Michael MacDonald’s full story: Canadian Press

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