Bureaucrat packs heat

A few eyebrows were raised when Victoria police chief Paul Battershill was appointed acting city manager, effective June 1. A former president of the Vancouver Police Union, Battershill is believed to be the first Canadian police chief to act as a municipality's top bureaucrat. Battershill will devote half his time to the police chief's job, while the other half is spent on city administrative work.

But the most surprising thing about Battershill is that, following a bizarre death threat last month, he wears a concealed handgun, even when sitting in his City Hall office, just a few metres from that of mayor Alan Lowe.

During a June 23 interview with the Straight, Battershill lifted up his jacket, revealing a small bulge under his shirt. “They've asked me to carry a handgun,”  Battershill said.

Though he is no stranger to bearing arms, this is the first time he's needed to wear a weapon off-duty. He said it's not something he's entirely comfortable with.

“It's a pain in the summer,”  he said. “If I want to wear a tennis shirt, what do I do?” 

Battershill began carrying the handgun after police learned on June 8 of a threat to shoot him. At the time, the Victoria city council was meeting as committee of the whole, with Battershill in attendance. Police rushed Battershill out of the meeting and temporarily locked down City Hall. They also assigned bodyguards to the chief and moved him out of town for a time.

“It was disruptive to the first week, for sure,”  Battershill said.

Although a suspect was later arrested, charges have yet to be laid and he is not in custody. The Victoria police behavioural-sciences unit is now assessing the suspect, Battershill said. During the Straight interview, Battershill repeatedly checked his BlackBerry for updates on the threat.

Battershill led Vancouver police emergency-response teams and ran a serious-crimes strike force. As well, Battershill was a member of then–judge Wally Oppal's 1993 commission of inquiry into B.C. policing.