It was a police emergency like few others. A man, possibly armed with a sword, had broken into a house and was fleeing the scene in a canoe on the Northwest Arm. Two police cars arrive at the Armdale Yacht Club, the officers inside looking to hitch a ride on a boat so they can bring the canoe caper to an end.
Before boarding the cops open the trunks of their patrol cars and take out their C8A2 semi-automatic carbines—a soldier’s weapon—and sling the rifles around their chests. Mark MacNeil was heading for his sailboat that October morning in 2014, when he saw the boat carrying the heavily armed officers.
Spratt, who graduated from Dalhousie University in 2005, is one of the people actively opposing the militarization of Canadian police as those departments purchase more and more heavy weapons. This “arming-up” is a national trend—semi-automatic carbines, armored cars, balaclavas, riot gear—all of which is changing the public face of the police.
“When police display this type of hard equipment it puts a wall between them and the people,” says Spratt. “People are afraid of it and they become afraid of the police.”