The Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) spent $343,000 [$252,000 USD] on an armored vehicle, citing concerns for the safety of police officers following the fatal shooting of three RCMP officers in Moncton, NB, last year.
The WPS put out a press release yesterday noting that they will be receiving the vehicle—known as the GURKHA MPV (multipurpose vehicle)—in spring 2016 and that it will be used to "provide protection" for police services.
"Whether transporting [Tactical Emergency Medical Support] members into the danger zone to render first aid to those in need, allowing [Tactical Support Team] members to better communicate in an armed and barricaded situation or if necessary, provide a strategic advantage in the deployment of less than lethal force options, the GURKHA will provide a safe and secure means of doing so," the posting reads.
The MPV model, which can seat eight people at a time and has eight gun ports, is considered the mid-range option in GURKHA's line of armored vehicles. It weighs approximately 7,500 kg [3,400 lbs] and is built to withstand gunfire.
While Peg City is a pretty dangerous place, it's not the absolute worst. According to the most recent murder numbers from Stats Canada, Winnipeg has the second-highest murder rate in the country, but it's basically on par with most other Canadian cities—minus Thunder Bay, which came out with shockingly higher numbers last year.
The WPS total budget for 2015 is pegged at $264 million [$194 million USD]. When asked by VICE how much of the money allotted for buying new equipment was used for tank-like SUV, the WPS said that they do not provide such info to the public.
WPS Superintendent Gord Perrier told CTV News the purchase was made partially due to the shooting spree that happened in Moncton, NB last year that left three RCMP officers dead and two injured.
Winnipeg is now the latest Canadian city to get an armored vehicle—joining other major cities such as Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Edmonton.
The announcement from WPS follows a recent vote by Regina city council that approved a 5.3 percent increase in that city's police budget, bringing it up to a total of $71.5 million [$52.5 million USD]. The increase will allow the city's police force to buy high-powered rifles and employ eight new officers.
Increases in police budgets and the purchasing of military-grade equipment have been met with significant criticism in Canada. Just last month, Toronto's police budget increased to a hefty $1 billion [$735 million USD], an all-time high for the city. Mayor John Tory said that such increases cannot continue to happen if the city hopes to stay realistic about its policing goals. It should be noted, however, the overall vote was unanimously in favor increase, which included support from Tory himself.
Concern around policing and militarization is at a fever pitch due to recent events south of the border. Clashes between police and protests, like those that have happened over the last year in Ferguson, MI, have been a flashpoint for dialogue and debate around policing through organizations like Black Lives Matter. In Canada, the shootings of Andrew Loku and Sammy Yatim have inspired similar movements.
Perrier told CTV News that, prior to the incident in Moncton the WPS didn't want to buy an armored vehicle because they felt it would indicate a militarization of police. Of course, one tank won't protect every cop, but one tank will sure make protesters uneasy. Follow Jake Kivanc on Twitter.