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Armoured vehicle purchase surprised police board, sparks policy change

Winnipeg Police Board chairman Scott Gillingham.

BORIS MINKEVICH/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Winnipeg Police Board chairman Scott Gillingham.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/12/2015 (1282 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The city’s police board plans to keep a closer watch on big-ticket police purchases in light of the police service’s decision to buy a $343,000 armoured vehicle without consultation.

The Winnipeg Police Board has since made it a rule that all police purchases over $100,000 must go before the board, and chairman Scott Gillingham said the police board is working closely with the police service and city administration to see if other policy changes are necessary.

The full police board still has not met to discuss the armoured vehicle purchase. The purchase became public knowledge Wednesday following a tender-selection process completed in October, when the police service awarded a contract for the Gurkha multi-purpose vehicle to Newmarket, Ont.-based Terradyne Armoured Vehicles, Inc.

The police service’s decision to purchase the vehicle took Gillingham by surprise – he saw the bid notice on the city’s website in mid-November and called a meeting Nov. 17 to discuss the matter with police chief Devon Clunis and the police board’s budget and finance sub-committee.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/12/2015 (1282 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The city’s police board plans to keep a closer watch on big-ticket police purchases in light of the police service’s decision to buy a $343,000 armoured vehicle without consultation.

The Winnipeg Police Board has since made it a rule that all police purchases over $100,000 must go before the board, and chairman Scott Gillingham said the police board is working closely with the police service and city administration to see if other policy changes are necessary.

The full police board still has not met to discuss the armoured vehicle purchase. The purchase became public knowledge Wednesday following a tender-selection process completed in October, when the police service awarded a contract for the Gurkha multi-purpose vehicle to Newmarket, Ont.-based Terradyne Armoured Vehicles, Inc.

The police service’s decision to purchase the vehicle took Gillingham by surprise – he saw the bid notice on the city’s website in mid-November and called a meeting Nov. 17 to discuss the matter with police chief Devon Clunis and the police board’s budget and finance sub-committee.

Board rules stated the chief had authority to use up to $500,000 on operational purchases not disclosed in the police service’s capital budget, and the purchase of the armoured vehicle was considered an operational expense along with other fleet vehicle purchases, Gillingham said.

"The service interpreted the provision of our rules that they had the authority to make that decision to reallocate (money) for this purchase. We believe, as a board, that they made it in good faith," he said.

Terradyne makes armoured vehicles such as the Gurkha RPV (above).

SUPPLIED / TERRADYNE, INC.

Terradyne makes armoured vehicles such as the Gurkha RPV (above).

The rules have now been changed, and Gillingham said he’s satisfied the armoured-vehicle purchase won’t put the police service overbudget and will be used to protect officers and the public.

"As we go forward, the board is committed to providing the oversight and providing the direction and the accountability necessary to ensure that this vehicle is used for the limited purposes for which it’s been purchased, and that purpose is primarily for the safety of officers and the public," he said. "And we’ll ensure as a board that police services in Winnipeg are continually delivered in a manner that’s consistent with the community’s needs, values and expectations."

Aside from concerns about increasing militarization of police, the public should have been consulted before the police service purchased the vehicle, said Kevin Walby, an associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Winnipeg.

"The lack of public input into the procurement process is very much opposite the rhetoric around community policing that suggests people should have input into policing, that the community should drive the mandate of the police," he said.

Winnipeg is one of the last major cities in Canada to purchase an armoured vehicle for its police force. Cities including Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Montreal and Vancouver – even Medicine Hat, Alta. – have them.

Sgt. Ken Kane with the Saskatoon Police Service’s tactical support unit said he was surprised Winnipeg didn’t already have an armoured vehicle, especially in light of a 17-hour armed standoff in a North End home in July 2014. In that case, a 52-year-old man barricaded himself inside a home and fired shots at police. Police fired back and the man was later found dead inside the home.

Kane said Saskatoon police’s armoured vehicle – purchased three years ago for $318,000 – "paid for itself" after police used it to rescue a family from a hail of gunfire in August 2014.

"As one of the first responding officers, I remember looking at the faces of the people, and them looking at us with sheer terror, you know, begging to be helped, and we can’t. We can’t get to them until we had that vehicle (called to the scene)," Kane said. "There’s probably a segment of the population that we’ll never win over, but we certainly are open to talking about it, showing it to people and trying to get them to understand why we have that particular tool."

The Calgary Police Service purchased an armoured vehicle for roughly $300,000 from Terradyne about eight years ago. It’s now used about 10 to 15 times per week on tactical calls, typically those involving reports of guns. It’s not used in every instance, because the police service considers deploying it to be a use of force.

The vehicle was also used to rescue families during 2013 floods in the area, said Insp. Insp. Blair White, in charge of Calgary Police Service’s support section, which includes the tactical unit.

"I don’t know what we would do without it," he said. "It’s that sense of comfort. It’s a security blanket in an incident where there’s potential for gunfire and risk to the public."

The Winnipeg Police Service is expected to take possession of its armoured vehicle in the spring.

katie.may@freepress.mb.ca

Katie May

Katie May
Justice reporter

Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.

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History

Updated on Thursday, December 10, 2015 at 7:25 PM CST: Adds sidebar

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