The right tool for the job applies to everyone, including police

Having read two articles this week, one by Hijal De Sarkar in the Huffington Post and second written by Supriya Dwivedi in the Toronto Sun about the Militarization of the police, I thought I would respond. This isn't a new discussion in the public domain, in fact it typically comes up after a mass demonstration, G8 event or something similar.The surprising part about both articles this week is they both came from the same location, and not following any substantial public event but rather a request for funding for police equipment in Toronto.  The Toronto Police made a request for funding to supply their frontline officers with Carbine rifles. Now if you read the two stories, Dwivedi and De Sarkar would suggest that the Toronto Police Service is putting forward a new special operations force onto the streets, as one suggested “…why would anyone, least of all top police brass, want their local frontline officers to look like an army occupying foreign, hostile territory?” The truth could not be further from the truth, in fact having had those very carbines in Ottawa while I was chief, I never had this raised once by the public, because they are not carried by the police but rather accessible to the police.I am not suggesting that we haven't seen a shift toward policing that appears more militarized, after all they now wear bullet proof vests outside their uniforms, when I started with the RCMP in 1982 we wore no vests at all, they have more equipment on their belts, capsicum spray, batons and in some cases Taser, for example. In most cases they came as a result of legislation or recommendations from inquiries. We know that based on the photos used in one article that the police have access to helmets and riot gear… FOR RIOTS, not for the fun of wearing them. In Ottawa we had hundreds of demonstrations each year and seldom saw the need to go to hard hats (helmets) in fact I have been a police officer for thirty two years, in three provinces, three territories, for three different services and have only seen these helmets used for serious riotous incidents, certainly not what is suggested in the article.To the points raised in the two articles. They both identify the purchase of carbine rifles as proof that the police are becoming more militarized, as if using the right equipment, regardless of where it comes from is a bad thing. You see the reality is that the shooting in Mayerthorpe, Alberta, claiming the lives of four RCMP officers when they were ambushed by a heavily armed man, resulted in a number of recommendations that were designed to make the work of a police officer safer when confronted with heavy fire. Two of the areas included the access and deployment of heavy body armor and carbine rifles. To be pointed here, it is the access to carbines that was recommended not that they become a carried weapon when on patrol, slung over the right shoulder, that's never going to happen. In fact while chief of Ottawa we had carbines issued at every division and officers took them into their patrol vehicles every shift, and yet the only time I personally saw them deployed was in an armed confrontation, like the Parliament Hill shooter last October. In fact the RCMP are facing labour code violations for not providing appropriate equipment (believed to be carbines) and training (active shooter training) following the Moncton, New Brunswick shooting. Who knows maybe lives would have been spared had the officers had carbines that day.One article suggests, “the absolute least we deserve is to live in a city where our officers do not look like they are carrying out a mission in Fallujah” and that's true we don't and it's ridiculous to suggest it, but we will see officers having access to the equipment that the labour code, police act and the public expect them to. In reality the purchase of this equipment will be essential to maintain and defend the safety of the public, it is the duty of every police officer in Canada and the agencies that hire those officers to ensure they can do their job safely. This is evidenced by the Canada Labour Code charges levied against the RCMP by Employment and Social Development Canada. Suggestions that Peelian Principles are being trod over by the purchase of weapons that multiple public enquiries, governments and the labour boards have dictated are a necessity for the police is not a fair description. In fact the sixth principle speaks specifically to the need to use the appropriate level of force necessary and although it is sad, there are times when carbines will be needed, as pointed out in the enquiries and reviews noted.Another area mentioned is the purchase of light armoured vehicles. In fact I was chief when we purchased such a vehicle in 2010 for the Ottawa Police Service. It was to be and has been used when engaging armed individuals. In fact most people in Ottawa have never seen the vehicle as much like the carbines. It is a tool that is used when it is needed but seldom is needed, thankfully.Although both writers want to take a shot at the chief and the police service for this request we are actually talking about necessary equipment so that police can access the weapons necessary in a situation where they are actively engaging a shooter. Any other suggestion or characterization is simply not true.If the two writers want to attack the police budget, the police service for its spending or even the Police Chief, have at it, the scrutiny is welcome I am sure, but please do it on the things that are not essential police tools, it isn't fair to the men and women out there running toward danger while we run away, willing to put their lives on the line for mine and yours.Senator Vernon White previously worked as the Chief of Police for Ottawa and Durham Regional police and left the RCMP in 2005 as an Assistant Commissioner.As well as a sitting senator, he is an international fellow at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and a part time professor for Charles Sturt University(Australia).He graduated from the Australia Graduate School of Policing in 2013 with with doctorate.