After seeing footage from Vancouver last night, and going through hundreds of still images today, one thing strikes out at me: Riot Police. Specifically, what they are equipped with. Riot Police, at the front line, with shields for the most part did NOT carry sidearms. Those that did looked to be on specific duty – they had other armaments as well, tear gas/bean bag launchers and weapons for rubber bullets. This is what I’ve come to see as standard. Regular officers equipped with sidearms, but those who are more apt to be in the fray, those at the front lines…DO NOT. I have not seen a Canadian manual for Riot Police, but the ones that I have seen make a good point that if the officer has a shield in one hand, and a truncheon in the other, there is no easy way to protect your weapon. The LAST thing they want is to arm an otherwise unarmed offender.
Contrast those images to those seen in Toronto at the G20 nearly a year ago. MOST of the Riot Police that I saw with shields HAD sidearms. Not all, but a good portion of them. Note: I am not including tasers here as sidearms. I’m also not talking about regular officers with riot helmets and gas masks. I’m talking the ‘core’ Riot police.
In a situation like a riot, the riot police are the front line. They get in the fray. We’ve all seen those videos. It would not be hard for an officer to lose control of his weapon. This could happen in any number of ways. He/she could have it taken off them by a protester, or vandal, or whatever situation they have been called in to deal with. It could simply get knocked off by one of those same individuals. It could also get knocked off by another officer in line. Guns stick out, and the riot shields could easily catch on to them. That is the reason why Riot Cops do not have sidearms.
One other thing to note… Vancouver Police apparently DID read the “Riot Act”…the LEGAL step needed to actually call this a riot. THAT is what gives them the right to go in and arrest people for not leaving the area.