Militarization of police forces

Police line at G-20 summit in Toronto, June 26, 2010.

The Toronto Police Service is about to equip frontline police officers with military-grade semiautomatic armour-piercing assault rifles, the same type used by Canadian Armed Forces and special tactical units. Reports say that at least three patrol cars in each of Toronto’s 17 police divisions will be equipped with the C8 assault rifles starting in May.

The rationale given for equipping municipal police with military-grade assault rifles would be ludicrous if it did not have such serious implications for the people. One police spokesperson said these weapons can also be used as part of a de-escalation strategy. Then there are the academic experts like Carleton University criminologist Darryl T. Davies who argue that “in the 21st century police are increasingly facing the threat of confrontation with criminals and terrorists who are equipped with high-powered assault rifles” against which standard police-issue pistols and shotguns are no match.

Arming municipal police forces with military-grade weaponry is increasingly the trend in Canada. The manufacturer of the C8 assault rifles, Colt Canada says police forces across Canada have been buying the weapon. Peel and York Region police forces have been using C8 assault rifles since 2014 and Durham Regional police since 2012. The Department of National Defence (DND) also markets surplus military equipment to police forces across Canada. DND reports that since March 2015 it has received requests from 63 separate organizations, including the Durham Police Service, for C8 assault rifles.

Another disturbing fact that has come to light is the use of dum-dum bullets by Toronto Police. Dum-dum or hollow-point bullets are designed to cause maximum damage by expanding the “wound channel” upon impact. In this regard a letter to theToronto Star in December 2015 states:

“These bullets are banned in warfare by Declaration 3 of the Hague Convention of 1899, but it seems are quite acceptable for use against our own citizens. The following excerpt from Wikipedia on the topic is insightful:

“During the Hague Convention of 1899, the British delegation attempted to justify the use of the dumdum bullet by pointing to its utility when putting down colonial unrest. Barbara Tuchman writes that, ‘Developed by the British to stop the rush of fanatical tribesmen, the bullets were vigorously defended by Sir John Ardagh against the heated attack of all except the American military delegate, Captain Crozier, whose country was about to make use of them in the Philippines.’”

The direct experience of the people of Canada is that increasingly the police act as a paramilitary force for the state and are used to terrorize the citizens, especially those who are organizing to affirm their rights – the Indigenous peoples, the workers, students, anti-war and environmental activists and others. These new weapons will be used against the peoples’ forces and in the face of this, it is imperative that the people continue to stand together and not permit anyone to be targeted.

Ontario Political Forum, February 9, 2016, Vol. 5, No. 2

Related Reading

“Unprecedented Verdict in Police Killing of Sammy Yatim: Step Up the Opposition to Police Violence and Impunity,” Ontario Political Forum, February 9, 2016, Vol. 5, No. 2


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