Bar­ri­cades, heav­ily armed po­lice ‘new nor­mal’ for street fes­ti­vals

Crim­i­nol­o­gist says po­lice’s pub­lic-safety man­date tends to clash with pub­lic per­cep­tion of free­doms

StarMetro Vancouver - - VANCOUVER - PER­RIN GRAUER Full story at thes­­cou­ver

The heavy ve­hi­cles and ri­fle­tot­ing po­lice of­fi­cers sta­tioned at ei­ther end of Sun­day’s Ital­ian Day fes­ti­val on Commercial Dr. are the “new nor­mal” for large events, ac­cord­ing to law-en­force­ment and crim­i­nol­ogy ex­perts.

Joel John­ston, for­mer useof-force co-or­di­na­tor for the Van­cou­ver Po­lice Depart­ment and a mem­ber of the Crowd Con­trol Unit, said the pres­ence of po­lice and mo­bile bar­ri­cades is a nec­es­sary re­sponse to mod­ern threats.

“We have seen deadly ve­hi­cle at­tacks across the globe,” John­ston said. “Any­where there are gath­er­ings of large crowds … needs to be se­cured as best as it can be. It is a fore­see­able risk that can be mit­i­gated.”

Van­cou­ver Po­lice Sgt. Ja­son Ro­bil­lard told Starmetro the VPD “is re­spon­si­ble for pre­par­ing for more than 1,000 events in the City of Van­cou­ver an­nu­ally,” each of which re­quires an in­di­vid­ual threat assessment and com­ple­men­tary re­sponse.

Over the past two years, Ro­bil­lard said, the VPD has added ex­tra re­sources “in­clud­ing equip­ping some of­fi­cers with car­bine ri­fles and us­ing heavy ve­hi­cle bar­ri­ers at events with large crowds, in re­sponse to world events.”

Ro­bil­lard told re­porters these bar­ri­ers are now a stan­dard part of VPD plan­ning and op­er­a­tions dur­ing large events like Canada Day and the Fes­ti­val of Lights.

The Ital­ian Day on the Drive fes­ti­val brings hun­dreds of thou­sands of par­tic­i­pants to a sin­gle, 1.4-kilo­me­tre stretch of road. John­ston said po­lice

de­part­ments are ob­li­gated to take pre­ven­ta­tive ac­tion to se­cure such events, since fail­ing to do so would be a fail­ure to ob­serve ba­sic stan­dards of care for pub­lic safety.

Cana­di­ans should not imag­ine ter­ror­ist at­tacks to be be­yond the realm of pos­si­bil­ity, said Bryan Kin­ney, as­so­ciate di­rec­tor of un­der­grad­u­ate pro­grams at the Simon Fraser

Univer­sity School of Crim­i­nol­ogy.

But he rec­og­nized the po­lice’s pub­lic-safety man­date would in­evitably clash with the per­cep­tion of ba­sic free­doms held by many civil­ians.

“There’s a ten­sion be­tween safety and the ap­pear­ance of a po­lice state,” he said.


Left: An of­fi­cer stands guard at the heavy ve­hi­cle bar­rier at the Ital­ian Day on the Drive fes­ti­val on Sun­day. Right: Sniper ri­fle, aerosol spray, ba­ton, Taser, body ar­mour and pis­tol are all part of the equip­ment pro­vided to this of­fi­cer at the same...

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