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New shoulder patches a symptom of militarization of police services


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Calgary’s police service is changing its shoulder patches. At the risk of seeming callous, our local police department has more glaring problems than a design flaw.

Where does one start? Street check-ups (known in Toronto as “carding”); the targeting of ethnic minorities and the mentally ill; the increasing use of SWAT teams for routine work and, as of a few years back, the militarization of Calgary’s fleet, putting aggressive black and white vehicles on the road. When some Calgarians complained about the colour change from the more passive blue with white and red stripes, they were mocked for being afraid of a colour.

Just to set the record straight, I was raised to see police officers as friends and protectors. My late father worked with them and they were his friends. They allowed a young girl in her Brownie uniform into the precinct and courthouse to flog Girl Guide cookies. I always sold out my stash.

Maybe the big thinkers on the force really believe making the shoulder patches taller with the word “POLICE” in big bold capital letters to replace the more benign Calgary Police Service will scare would-be miscreants. In a Facebook post introducing the new design: “These new shoulder flashes are similar in design to the majority of other police services … It is a benefit that police in Canadian cities have similar appearance and are easily identified.” (As if officers, both men and women, are not easily identified by the dark blue uniforms and the requisite “equipment” strapped onto their bodies.)

The design change is just one more attempt on the part of this “service” to militarize itself.

Not being a person of colour, not being Indigenous or homeless or scruffy, I’m not on the police radar. Indeed, as an adult, my contact with the police has been remote if not non-existent, with the exception of a few traffic tickets.

There are statistics and academic studies proving the militarization of police around the continent. Most of the studies have focused on the United States, with case after case of civilian law enforcement agencies receiving military equipment, from armoured vehicles to helicopters and Humvees. Even the language has been militarized. We are no longer the public we are “civilians.” That’s a military term, not one to be used by the police. Its use sets up a perfect us versus them scenario. As if we are the enemy to be confronted.

So it isn’t just shoulder patches of concern, but the growing use of SWAT or tactical teams for what should be ordinary police work. Calgary police would have you believe this is just business as usual. Except such business, for example, has stopped my friend on her way to church choir practice. Her “crime?” Walking while black. The only difference between us, other than her much younger age, multiple university degrees and the fact she’s about six inches taller, is her skin colour. Perhaps it was just an error on the part of police. But ask any person of colour, any vagrant, Aboriginal or anyone who isn’t white and middle class how often they’ve been arbitrarily stopped by a police officer in any Canadian city. The racism (of which we refuse to admit) is just as abhorrent in this country as it is to the south — with the possible exception of the number of young black men who’ve been killed by American police officers

Kevin Walby of the University of Winnipeg and Brendan Roziere from the University of Manitoba have compiled statistics from 10 large and medium-sized Canadian police forces. They write: “Militarization has been normalized within Canada’s largest police services. SWAT teams once considered a last-resort option for police forces are now being used in routine areas of policing.”

Walby and Roziere found an astonishing 2,100 per cent increase in SWAT teams deployment across Canada over 37 years, although Calgary police use has uniquely declined recently. If this was “limited to only those situations requiring their equipment and skills, such as hostage-taking and terror threats, there would perhaps be less cause for concern.”

“There is no meaningful oversight for normalization and expansion of police militarization … (it) does not merely affect interactions between the state and criminal offenders, it changes what policing is by changing what police officers do.”

So, it’s not just new shoulder patches being rolled out to Calgary police, it’s a distressing part of a more aggressive plan.

Catherine Ford is a regular columnist for the Calgary Herald.


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..article is just a pile of steaming mindless drivel by an obvious police hater.   


Looking forward to the new patch design !

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  • 1 year later...

New academic article on the RCMP and militarization of policing in Canada:


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On 11/16/2020 at 8:35 PM, Chris Madsen said:

New academic article on the RCMP and militarization of policing in Canada:


Here is an active link that will take you to "Green is the New Black: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Militarisation of Policing in Canada", Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies



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A very interesting graduate thesis on police tactical units in several larger Canadian cities, and the question of police militarization in Canada:

Bryce Jenkins, "Canadian Police Tactical Units: The Normalization of Police Militarization or a Pragmatic Response to High-Risk Calls", MA, Carleton University, Ottawa

jenkins-canadianpolicetacticalunitsthenormalization.pdf (carleton.ca)

It is based on empirical research and interviews and questionnaires conducted with police officers.  The conclusion challenges some of the claims made by Kevin Walby and Brendan Roziere in the Calgary Herald article above and elsewhere about police becoming more militarized in Canada.  The second part of the title suggests where most police officers see the need for such units.   That sentiment really goes back to when the Los Angeles Police Department first established Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) in 1967 after the Watts riots in LA.  The original 1975-76 S.W.A.T. television series was quite good in showing the teamwork and techniques, compared to the slicked up reboot being offered today.  


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The RCMP intends to procure more tactical armoured vehicles, to add to its existing fleet:

RCMP plan to buy more armoured vehicles amid new scrutiny over policing tactics - iPolitics

The older ones are now getting on in years, and they have proven extremely useful.  Had an opportunity to sit in one at the Abbotsford Airshow two years ago.  Spent far too much time talking to the ERT Sergeant manning the table, while my son donned the new body armour and helmet.  The RCMP special constable pilot at the helicopter next door would not believe me when I told him that the City of Surrey was definitely kicking out the RCMP and getting its own city police force.   That is now coming to pass.  The great March East out of British Columbia by the RCMP.  And if Jason Kenny gets his way, Alberta as well. 

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A CPIC exclusive.  The editors decided not to use this photograph in my Green is the New Black article.

EC120B (Airbus H120) light utility helicopter belonging to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, at Langley airport


Source:  Chris Madsen


I was there to get a picture of the H145, but they had already put it in the hangar.  That new twin engine "traffic" helicopter just happens to carry 8 ERT members as well and a hook for fancy ninja work.  The RCMP has an exemption from Transport Canada for its single engine helicopters to carry loads.  But I would not want to be hanging from a single engine helicopter.  Two engines are always better, in case one flames out or stalls. 

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Airbus sales promotion for the new H145.

H145 - Light twin - Airbus

RCMP seems to be a happy customer, and no doubt will be buying more.  It really is a much safer helicopter than the current single engine ones they are now using.  In January 2012, an AS350 B3 helicopter and pilot, Dave Brolin, crashed out in Chilliwack training with the ERT, when snow got sucked into the air intakes and doused out the engine.  It dropped 40 meters straight into the ground, from the so called "radius of death" when recovery from engine failure was near impossible.  RCMP was just lucky no one else was on board or hanging from the hook.

Pilot killed in RCMP helicopter crash near Chilliwack (vancouversun.com)

Here is the official Transportation Safety Board of Canada report into the crash, cause engine failure:

Aviation Investigation Report A12P0008 (tsb.gc.ca)

Dave Brolin, an RCMP civilian member, received a regimental funeral in Surrey.

Hundreds pay tribute to RCMP pilot Dave Brolin – Cloverdale Reporter

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The Navistar Defence Canada Tactical Armoured Vehicle (TAV), redesigned from the parent company's MXT model, in service with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Lower Mainland Emergency Response Team - on display at the Abbotsford Air show.  The total original contract was for 18 TAV at a cost of $14 million, or about $780,000 each.  This four-wheel drive vehicle can carry a driver, an ERT team, and about a thousand pounds of equipment.  The turret at the top allows 360 degree visibility and has gun ports for snipers.

Navistar, Inc. - Navistar Defence Canada To Support Royal Canadian Mounted Police With Armoured Vehicles

RCMP Receives Armoured Wheels from Navistar - Truck News

Exterior and interior views, with an exceptionally good looking model, who also was much impressed by the new issue RCMP ERT body armour.  The tools of the trade are on the table and the ground.  

Sergeant Glen Fishbook, in the background, was in charge of high aerial and marine boarding competencies and training.  He had worked with the RCMP ERT in the territories and British Columbia for many years and represents the best professionalism and expertise resident in the force's tactical units. 

Preparing for the Worst: Inside UBC’s campus shooter exercise | Trek Magazine UBC




RCMP ERT body armour.JPG

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The RCMP took delivery of the new H145 helicopter from Airbus in December 2018, and it entered operational service at the end of the following summer.  It is designated Air 5 and operates in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, out of Langley Regional Airport, predominantly:

Airbus delivers Canada’s first H145 to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police - Helicopters - Airbus

Royal Canadian Mounted Police First H145 (helis.com)

RCMP Receives New State-of-the-Art Helicopter | COPA (copanational.org)

RCMP unveil new chopper - BC News - Castanet.net

The H145 is tactical helicopter suited to employment with the Emergency Response Team.  In the hands of a skilled pilot, it can be used in urban, country terrain, and over water settings.

The following video shows the H145 landing and taking off, to an admiring crowd with many children, and reminds one how loud helicopters are:

RCMP "E" Division NEW Air 5 Landing & Taking Off - Bing video

And, finally some RCMP eye candy which features the RCMP Air Service helicopters, Police Service Dogs, and ERT, with suitably brash soundtrack:

The RCMP in action - Bing video

Almost makes up for the low pay and long hours.

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A helicopter pilot with the military's domestic counter-terrorism unit once told me it takes about five years of practice and training to become proficient in special operations work, especially over water.  RCMP helicopter pilots do not get the same level of full-time specialized training in working with the ERT.  They are mostly recruited from commercial pilots, and serve as special constables. 

JTF2 Recruiting Video | JTF2 CSOR CJIRU 427SQ HD - YouTube

Many skills needed to pilot an RCMP helicopter | Royal Canadian Mounted Police (rcmp-grc.gc.ca)

Of course, the assaulters get the lion share of attention, followed by the snipers.  The pilots flying the helicopters are the real rock stars. And they will get you there and home, safely.  

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Sergeant Glen Fishbook and his ERT team received the award of valour, the highest given by the Province of British Columbia to police members for courage and exemplary service.

Ministry of Justice Press Release 21 November 2013:

RCMP Lower Mainland Emergency Response Team

Sergeant Glen Fishbook and constables Mark Adrain, Chris Clemett, Adam Cormier, Bentley Fooks, Luke Johnston, James King, Angus MacLean and Alexis Richer – entered and searched a burning home where a gunman was holed up and three residents were missing.

Awards honour B.C. police for valour, meritorious service (nationtalk.ca)

ERT-member-speaks-on-radio1.jpg (2000×1335) (ubc.ca)

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