The thin blue line: Toronto Police get assault rifles

by | Feb 4, 2016 | City News, Editorial, Opinion

The Toronto Police Service is primed to be outfitted with assault rifles various sources reported on Jan. 19. The weapon is the C8 carbine, an automatic that can fire dozens of rounds in seconds.  Each one costs $2000 and they will be issued in every Toronto division.

Concerning the plan, Toronto Police spokesman Mark Pugash told the CBC, “we’re always looking at technology to see if it offers us additional safety, additional accuracy, something that can help us protect the public.”

We really hope people aren’t buying this.

The police community would have people believe that Canada is in grave danger, and they point to a shooting rampage from 2005 in Mayerthorpe, Alta. and another in 2014 that left three dead in Moncton, N.B.

These incidents were tragic but anomalous. Violent crime has been on a steady downturn in Canada for over two decades. Compare this to more mass shootings in the U.S. than there are days in a year for 2015 and it’s hard to understand why a Canadian police force would think it necessary to outfit their officers with paramilitary weapons.

Police do need to defend themselves and it’s puzzling that police in the U.K. are unarmed. Our men and women in blue should be well equipped to keep the peace but the C8 is a weapon of war and not a tool for keeping the peace.

Toronto police chief Mark Saunders claims police will actually become less lethal since they will be given “sock rounds” – non-lethal ammunition comprised of granular material in a Kevlar sac –for the shotguns they already have in their cruisers. This is just not true at all. Less lethal would be to give them sock rounds and take the slugs from the shotguns. The current initiative makes police more lethal while expanding their non-lethal options. The difference is small but important, and it’s hard to believe that the chief misspoke on the matter.

A shotgun seems to be a reasonable place to draw the line on what is needed to protect a city in a non-military capacity.

Not to mention, the TPS’s Emergency Task Force has had access to C8 carbines for 16 years and they are the only force that we can imagine would have any need for an assault rifle.

Saunders assured the public that officers will be properly trained in the use of the rifle as well as better de-escalation training. So far, those are the only details we have on the training. It had better be good, since Sammy Yatim was unlawfully gunned down by an officer armed with only a pistol.

Ottawa criminal lawyer Michael Spratt seems to agree. “Weapons, when they’re accessible to police, tend to be used,” he told Huffington Post.

Police worldwide are becoming increasingly lethal and militarized, viewing the public they were once charged to protect as enemy combatants in a warzone, particularly in inner city settings. This has been seen time and again in Canada and the United States.

Whether it’s procuring increased budgets in Toronto, currying popular consensus in the wake of a shooting on Parliament Hill or suppressing those with legitimate grievances in Missouri, those with the power to do so will prey on the fear and grief of the population to further their own ends that are increasingly divergent from the actual will of the people.

People can still stand up against this push in a civil, legal manner but it’s only a matter of time before it’ll just get you shot.