Toronto police buy military-style rifles for front-line officers
TORONTO — Toronto police have revealed a plan to deploy some potent new firepower to front-line officers.
The police service has purchased dozens of Colt C8 semiautomatic assault rifles, to be distributed among each of the force’s 17 divisions, by the end of May.
Manufacturer Colt Canada — which advertises the weapon as “distinctly Canadian” — boasts the weapon is popular with police because of its relatively short barrel, which makes them easier to operate in close quarters or when entering and exiting a vehicle.
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Police spokesman Mark Pugash said the rifles will replace the shotguns currently in use and will be paired with a new non-lethal weapon known as a “sock gun,” which fires a round similar to a small bean bag, hitting a target without penetrating it.
He also said the new weapons carry more ammunition, have a longer effective range and are more powerful than the handguns and shotguns currently available to front-line officers, a significant consideration against better-armed and better-protected criminals.
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“We also see an increase in the number of people wearing body armor, and a shotgun is of no use against body armor, that’s an important point,” he added.
Pugash said the military-style weapon has been used by Toronto’s Emergency Task Force, Drug Squad and other specialized units for 15 years. He said Toronto is one of the last police forces in the Greater Toronto Area to employ the weapon.
The C8 carbine is already widely used among police forces across Canada, including in Halifax, Calgary and Edmonton. Durham and Peel regional police began training with the C8 in 2014, and the Ontario Provincial Police carry a carbine in each cruiser.
Pugash also stressed that the purchase isn’t connected to any increase in violent crime.
“The safety of members of the public and the safety of officers is not to be dependent on where the crime rate is, this is a concern all the time,” he said. “It’s important irrespective of what the crime rate is.”
The police plan to distribute three carbines per division, deployed in “scout cars.”
Each weapon costs between $2,000 and $3,000.
Pugash said the force has planned the purchase for several years, but faced budget obstacles and also conducted extensive trials with the weapon.
“We can’t do everything when we want to do it as quickly as we want to do it,” he said. “And we believe that with everything of this kind, you put it through a tough trial to make sure that you have the right equipment, the right procedures, the right training and so we’ve taken the time because we think it’s important to do it right.”
With files from the Canadian Press
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