New Brunswick

Fredericton too small and quiet for armoured police vehicle, prof says

Michael Boudreau, who teaches criminology at St. Thomas University, says the armoured vehicle that city council has approved buying will be out of place in a city as small as Fredericton.

Criminologist questions spending $350,000 on equipment more suitable for large cities

Fredericton city council approved the purchase of a light armoured police vehicle that will cost about $350,000. (Winnipeg Police Service)

A Fredericton criminologist is questioning the need for a light armoured police vehicle in a city that has only about 56,000 people.

Michael Boudreau, who teaches criminology at St. Thomas University, said the new vehicle, which was approved at city council on Monday night, would be out of place in a city as small as Fredericton.

"They're primarily in larger urban centres — Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg — where they have more crime but also more street protests, more needs for crowd control, more need for high level security," Boudreau said.

"[In] smaller centres, I'm not familiar with many, if any, who have these vehicles."

The Fredericton Police Force asked for the vehicle, which costs about $350,000, as part of the city's 2017 budget. The department also asked for money to hire more officers and office staff, but this was denied.

Vehicle not needed in Fredericton?

Boudreau said there is nothing in Fredericton's recent history that makes him think the new vehicle is necessary.

Michael Boudreau, who teaches criminology at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, says a light armoured vehicle would make more sense in a large city, where the crime rate and the need for crowd control would be higher.
"There was indeed a recent takedown, as it were, near the Westmorland Street bridge involving multiple officers, but [the] individuals were successfully apprehended without the need of said vehicle," Boudreau said.

Fredericton police are calling the vehicle an armoured rescue vehicle, a distinction Boudreau said is meant to soften the image of the vehicle.

"A rescue vehicle versus light armoured have two very different connotations," he said.

"Rescue means it's going to be part of public safety, light armoured means that perhaps the police are going to be far more aggressive than what they need to be in the context of community policing."

Legacy of Justin Bourque shooting

The most recent incident New Brunswickers may see as having warranted an armoured vehicle was the shooting of RCMP officers by Justin Bourque in Moncton.Three Mounties were killed, but Boudreau said an armoured vehicle wouldn't have saved them, since they wouldn't have used it to respond to the initial reports about Bourque.

"Would they have had more of a chance in one of those vehicles?" Boudreau asked. "Yes, but that presumes they knew exactly what was happening, how many weapons he had, where he was, what his intent was and in most of these situations police don't have that luxury and they don't necessarily assume that either."

Boudreau said the perceived need for the vehicle comes from a growing militarization of police in North America. He said police often feel under siege from the public and by a perceived rise in crime that, except for specific cities like Chicago, isn't real.

"But it's an unfair comparison between Chicago and Fredericton. They're not the same in any way shape or form," said Boudreau.

With files from Information Morning Fredericton