Firearm-free police? Green Party calls for patrollers to give up guns
The Green Party of Quebec says police on patrol have proven they cannot responsibly handle firearms, so they should be stripped of their weapons.
The party is not calling for a total ban on firearms among police officers, but says they should be much more restricted than they are now, where every officer is armed.
"We're not saying that there should be no firearms on any police officers ever. It's just that the frontline patrol officers doing the patrol work should not necessarily be armed," said Green Party leader Alex Tyrrell. “We think that we could have a much better approach to community policing if not all police officers were armed.”
Police forces in Great Britain, Norway, and New Zealand have mostly unarmed patrollers, so the Green Party said there is no reason police in Quebec should be any different.
“In London, it's only special police units that have the firearms. They can be called to any part of the city at any time,” he said.
Tyrrell said that since 1987 police have shot and killed 136 people in Quebec, and that as a result there is a fair amount of mistrust between police officers on patrol and citizens.
He pointed out that many of those killed by police have mental health issues, or belong to minority groups or other marginalized communities.
"The problem is that sometimes situations can escalate very quickly so you know in a lot of cases there are people who for example have mental health issues, or maybe are holding a knife and end up being shot in the chest by police officers. If the first level intervention police officers were not armed there would be more of an incentive to de-escalate the situation," said Tyrrell.
The Green Party has launched a petition calling for people to support its position, saying it's an issue that needs to be debated.
Former police officer Paul Chablo, who now teaches police tech at John Abbott College, believes the Green Party's idea is a bad one, pointing out the UK is now examining whether more officers should be armed.
“The world has changed. It's changing even more what you're seeing across the world is terrorist attacks. England is not being spared its share of terrorist attacks,” he said.
Recent polls after one British officer was killed in the Westminster terror attack found more than one-third of all police officers in England felt officers should be armed -- an increase of 10 per cent in a decade.
More than half of the officers said they did not believe armed support would be available if they needed
“The same idea applies in Canada,” Chablo said. “It's unimaginable to think that police officers can intervene in an armed robbery, a hold up, and these are everyday officers that go on these calls. How can they intervene in an armed robbery when they're not armed?”