File closed on complaint against Vancouver police deployment of assault rifles at public events

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      Vancouver police can continue bringing out the heavy artillery at huge public gatherings.

      The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner has closed the file on a complaint against the display by police of assault rifles at community events.

      “While the presence of military-styled rifles may be concerning to some members of the public who are not used to seeing them, these weapons are now commonly carried and used by police agencies across North America,” OPCC investigative analyst David H. Farrar wrote in a letter.

      The letter was addressed to the complainant, whose name was redacted, and Mayor Kennedy Stewart, chair of the Vancouver police board.

      Farrar’s letter is included in the agenda Thursday (April 18) of the police board.

      The complaint was prompted by the presence of rifle-toting officers at the Italian Day celebration on Commercial Drive in June 2018.

      Officers were seen carrying C8 rifles, which are compact assault rifles. The Canadian military has this type of rifles in its arsenal, which are intended for close combat.

      The complaint partly read: “The presence of overarmed police is both intimidating and triggering to a lot of the general public, it doesn't make people feel safer or protected, it looks like fascism you would expect in third world dictatorships.”

      “As a multicultural society made up of immigrants and refugees, many of whom came to Canada to escape wars and fascism from countries all over the world, looking for a peaceful safe haven to build a new life, are shocked and surprised to find militarization of our police here too,” according to the complaint. “The presence of police with assault weapons makes people feel nervous!”

      A Vancouver Police Department report to the police board countered that the “presence of long rifles…can serve to deter a terrorist attack”.

      “When equipped with the modern electronic sight, the carbine is both incredibly fast and extremely accurate at distances much farther than handguns, and could achieve a disabling shot, including in crowd situations,” according to the VPD report.

      Referring to C8 rifles, Farrar wrote: “They have been previously approved for use by the government for use by all police departments in British Columbia and the police officers who are issued with these rifles are required to successfully meet high standards of proficiency on an annual basis.”

      Farrar recalled that the complaint was dismissed by the Vancouver police board in December 2018.

      Farrar noted that the complaint did not ask the OPCC to review the board’s decision.

      “Having had the opportunity to review the Board’s decision, this office is satisfied with the outcome and will not be making any recommendations for further investigation, study, courses of action or changes to service or policy respecting this particular matter, nor will we be making any recommendations to the Director of Police Services,” Farrar wrote.

      Farrar stated that the “matter is considered concluded and no further action will be taken”.