New Brunswick

Armoured police vehicles: Fredericton spends $350K, Miramichi $2

Two New Brunswick police forces have acquired armoured vehicles this year, but the cost to taxpayers in each city varies greatly.

Miramichi buys 23-year-old vehicle for toonie, Fredericton leases its vehicle new

Fredericton police have not released a description of the armoured vehicle they're leasing, but this armoured response vehicle was used at a police scene in Winnipeg's north end. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Two New Brunswick police forces have acquired armoured vehicles this year, but the cost to taxpayers in each city varies greatly.

Fredericton police Chief Leanne Fitch won city council's support for an armoured vehicle, to be leased for $57,000 a year for six years. 

In Miramichi, city council unanimously approved the purchase of a 23-year-old armoured truck from private security firm Gardaworld — for a toonie.

"The price is right for what we're getting and we'll certainly make use of the donation Gardaworld is giving us," said Deputy Chief Brian Cummings of the Miramichi police.

We are a drive-through community and we know through this pipeline a lot of criminal activity takes place.- Leanne   Fitch , Fredericton police chief

The deal on the vehicle came about after a Miramichi sergeant was in touch with someone from the security company, which transports cash between financial institutions.

"The topic of decommissioned armoured vehicles came up in conversation and my sergeant learned they had done this type of thing for other departments in the past," Cummings said.

"It wasn't something we knew about prior. We're thankful we did learn about it."

'What could possibly go wrong?'

The Fredericton Police Force has come up against criticism over its armoured vehicle, which it will own when the lease ends. Internally, the vehicle worth nearly $350,000 will be known as an "armoured rescue vehicle."

"As a taxpayer I'd rather see my money going into more humane efforts," Fredericton resident Kevin Matthews said at a news conference held by Cat Rescue Maritimes — "at least something to help them with their work, rather than to be investing in armoured police vehicles, which I consider to be quite less humane."

In an interview with Terry Seguin on Information Morning Fredericton, Fitch defended the department's purchase.

Fredericton police Chief Leanne Fitch defends the force's need for an armoured police vehicle. (CBC)
"People look at New Brunswick in a very narrow view, like, 'What happens in New Brunswick? What could possibly go wrong?'" she said.

Fitch points to the "landscape and complexities of policing" and New Brunswick's geographical location as reason enough for the armoured vehicle.

Framed by the Atlantic Ocean, Quebec, Nova Scotia and the U.S. border, "we are a drive-through community and we know through this pipeline a lot of criminal activity takes place," said Fitch.

Fredericton's armoured vehicle will be compatible with rural and urban environments and will have all-wheel drive capabilities.

Both police forces plan to wrap the vehicles in department colours and logos.

Special use, not patrol

Both Fredericton and Miramichi police forces have said their new armoured vehicles will be used only when needed.

"It's certainly not something that's going to be out on random patrol," said Fitch, who specified the vehicle carries "a clear deployment strategy."

While Miramichi's new vehicle has been used regularly on city streets transporting cash for Gardaworld, it will be employed by the force only "where there's a high risk," said Cummings, citing the 2014 Moncton shooting of RCMP officers as an example of similar vehicles used previously in the province.

"Some of them were commandeered from financial institutions because they needed them for officer safety."