Nova Scotia may look at tightening legislation around the use of former police equipment, after another individual was arrested for allegedly impersonating a police officer in a mock vehicle.
A 23-year-old Antigonish man was arrested on Monday, following three separate complaints about an unmarked police car driving erratically in the Halifax and Antigonish areas.
The arrest raised concerns about the criminality of impersonating a police officer, and evoked the memories of the tragic April mass shooting, when a gunman disguised as an RCMP officer killed 22 innocent Nova Scotians.
“This is unfortunate; it’s not a conversation that we would want to be having. We’d think that unfortunately given recent events that we wouldn’t have to be dealing with an incident like this,” said Cpl. Mark Skinner with the Nova Scotia RCMP.
RCMP said they received three separate complaints on Jan. 6, Jan. 10, and Jan. 18, about a replica police cruiser driving erratically and tailgating drivers.
“The nature of the investigation and the complaints we received, we believe there are other instances and potentially instances where the individual or the accused who was driving the mock police cruiser could have tried to pull someone over,” said Skinner.
It’s believed the 23-year-old works as a security guard and was arrested without incident at a home in Antigonish. The vehicle seized was a 2013 Ford Taurus, similar to what Nova Scotia RCMP use.
“The vehicle itself is an ex-police vehicle,” said Skinner. “I can’t tell you if it’s RCMP or another agency, our investigation is leading us to try to figure that out.”
RCMP say the vehicle had no specific decals on it, but did include a one-inch wide stripe running the length of the car, a front end mounted push bar with LED lights, two antennas, a microphone on the dashboard, along with a CB radio, and an LED light bar installed in the rear window.
The National Police Federation condemns the act of impersonating a police officer.
“This is behaviour that we clearly don’t condone and that, frankly, demonstrates a complete lack of empathy for the public, and especially for Nova Scotians after the year they have endured,” said Brian Sauvé, president of the federation, in a news release.
“Our Members did their job professionally, with community safety top of mind, and without incident – which I will add is how their work unfolds the overwhelming majority of the time,” he wrote.
“It’s also our hope that the Mass Casualty Inquiry will include a review of social and mental health services, or others, that contribute to these kinds of incidents.”
PC leader Tim Houston tells Global News his party will table tougher laws when the legislature reconvenes.
“We are going to put legislation forward around the police car for sure, but as a society, we have to really take it seriously around the impersonation of a police officer and make a very strong statement, that this is not ok,” said Houston.
Justice Minister and former RCMP officer Mark Furey said these are very serious incidents, and in the wake of the mass shooting, they are looking at tightening the laws around police impersonation.
“We are looking at how we can enhance and strengthen legislation to ensure that decommissioned police vehicles and police equipment are not used for illegal purposes,” said Furey.
The suspect was released on conditions to appear in Antigonish court on March 24th. RCMP are asking anyone with any information or who may have interacted with this individual to contact them.