Police were searching for a person who was considered dangerous and possibly armed, when Sidney residents spotted officers wielding semi-automatic rifles.
On Saturday, July 8, Sidney North Saanich RCMP officers were acting on a request by the Saanich Police, who were looking for a person they said might have been at a home in Sidney, in the Resthaven Drive and Harbour Road area between 3 and 3:30 p.m. Rosalyne Brand emailed the News Review, concerned about the show of force.
“I was stunned to see a solitary RCMP officer walking without a hat and carrying semi-automatic rifle, possibly an M16. If such a show of force was required why were there no other officers present and traffic diverted?” she wrote.
Staff Sergeant Wayne Conley of the local RCMP detachment says police use of the carbine rifle — which does look like a shortened version of the M-16 military rifle (or C7, Canadian military version) — is the new normal when officers are responding to potentially dangerous situations.
“We did call a few people back after they called us asking what was going on,”Conley said. “Saanich Police had indicated the person they were looking for might have been at a residence in Sidney and was possibly armed.”
Police responding to such calls — potential high-risk situations — are generally equipped with the carbine rifles, he said.
“It’s just being prepared for high-risk situations.”
RCMP across the country have been slated to receive the rifles — and corresponding training — for years, and the issue came to a head in Moncton, New Brunswick in 2014. In that instance, a man shot five officers, killing three and raising the issue of a lack of carbine rifles among officers in such situations.
“I hope that using such a show of force in Sidney is done only under the most dire of conditions and with the safety of the general public in mind,” Brand wrote.
Conley said even a relatively quiet community like Sidney is not immune to serious incidents, noting police response a few weeks ago to a pair of incidents where people had barricaded themselves. Those incidents ended peacefully.
“I think people can be shocked when they see a member with a carbine,” Conley noted. “But they shouldn’t be.”
He said officers are trained in their use and only use the rifles in situations deemed potentially high-risk.
In the case on Saturday, July 8, the person sought by police was not at the Sidney residence.