Edmonton city police have two armoured vehicles in their arsenal but remain coy on what funding is available for a third.
City police spokeswoman Cheryl Voordenhout said the the force currently has a Ballistic Armoured Tactical Transport (B.A.T.T.) vehicle and a Grizzly vehicle.
“Armoured vehicles are essentially police rescue vehicles,” said Voordenhout. “In the case of an event involving weapons, these vehicles would be used for public and officer safety.”
Voordenhout added that questions regarding funding for armoured vehicle replacements or purchases would have to be answered through the Freedom of Information and Privacy (FOIP) unit. She said requests for operational information regarding specialized police equipment is beyond the scope of the communications depatment.
The country’s Department of National Defence has donated at least five armoured vehicles to police agencies since 2007: the Grizzly armoured personnel carrier to Edmonton city police that year; two Cougar armoured vehicles to the B.C. RCMP in 2010; and one Cougar each to the police in New Glasgow, N.S., and Windsor, Ont., in 2013.
The Cougar sent to New Glasgow was given away in 2017 because it was never put to good use, the police chief said at the time. Police departments that have the vehicles argue they are necessary because they offer protection to officers and the public during mass public shootings, hostage takings and other high-risk scenarios.
Voordenhout said the B.A.T.T. was used in 2015 to “retrieve” the body of Const. Dan Woodall after he was killed on duty at a west-end home before it went up in flames. Woodall, a 35-year-old hate crimes investigator, was fatally shot outside the home while executing a criminal harassment warrant on June 8, 2015. The tactical unit responded to the daytime killing in which the homeowner, who was also the gunman, then killed himself after lighting his house on fire.
In 2014, Edmonton police spokesman Scott Pattison said the force doesn’t use its Grizzly often because it had recently purchased the B.A.T.T. from Michigan-based The Armored Group.
The 1978 Grizzly was rolled out to several standoff scenes, as well as community safety events and football games, the first few years after it arrived in 2007.
The 9,900-kilogram Grizzly can carry as many as 10 officers into armed standoffs and hostage situations, police said at the time. After the Department of Defence donated the decommissioned vehicle, police spent $35,000 to strip away the weapons systems and give it a new paint job. Police said the carrier would be used only as a defensive tool.
It was also made available for use by the RCMP in central and northern Alberta.
In 2006, a fatality inquiry report on the deaths of RCMP Cpl. Jim Galloway and Martin Ostopovich recommended that such a vehicle be available to area police. Galloway and Ostopovich were both shot to death during a standoff in Spruce Grove in February 2004.
Galloway’s family specifically asked for the RCMP to purchase such a vehicle during the inquiry. The 55-year-old Mountie was shot by Ostopovich as he got out of his SUV to take cover. Moments before, Galloway had tried to ram Ostopovich’s vehicle with the SUV to keep the gunman from escaping the scene.
Officers testified at the inquiry that there wasn’t an armoured vehicle available to them. In his fatality inquiry report, Judge Peter Ayotte said such a vehicle may have prevented the two deaths.
Files from 2016 show there are about 400 calls for the Edmonton city police tactical unit every year, including minor calls where only one or two squad members are needed. Less than 10 per cent of of calls are critical incidents where an armoured vehicle might be deployed.
The 2019 annual policing plan, the latest posted to the Edmonton Police Commission website, shows $28.19 million earmarked for vehicle replacements throughout the police division. This would include any replacements needed for any police vehicle in the city whether that be tactical, a squad car or either of the city police force’s two helicopters.
A separate section of the policing plan states that “workload for the tactical section is significant and gaps in coverage are currently being mitigated with high levels of standby pay and overtime.” It said an injection of resources would allow for the unit to move to a four-unit squad from its current three-squad model.
Calgary Police Services revealed a new armoured rescue vehicle they purchased for close to $500,000 in April 2019. Insp. Nancy Farmer said it took about four years to acquire the new equipment.
— With files from Canadian Press