Vancouver and Victoria police told academic researcher Adam Molnar they’ve started training in combat exercises with the US military. Police weren’t so forthright when Focus came asking.
Western Canadian police forces and the US military have been skirting laws on both sides of the border in secretive, controversial, urban-combat training exercises, says researcher Adam Molnar. Molnar recently completed his Political Science PhD thesis for the University of Victoria, titled “In the Shadow of the Spectacle: Security and Policing Legacies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.” His study provides a behind-the-scenes look into how the biggest peace-time security operation in Canadian history permanently re-shaped British Columbia policing with respect to governance, use of electronic surveillance, public order emergencies, and public-private partnerships. One of its most provocative chapters outlines the creation of the Vancouver Police Department’s “Military Liaison Unit,” and the spread of the model to other police departments including Victoria’s.
Molnar can’t disclose the names of the police sources he interviewed due to university research ethics requirements; however, he can discuss his research. Molnar says the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) Military Liaison Unit (MLU) was created in the early 2000s. Under then VPD Chief Jamie Graham’s direction, the MLU was intended to improve working relationships between the Canadian military and Vancouver police for the Olympics. In Molnar’s study, one VPD MLU official is quoted as saying that, prior to the Olympics, there was a long-standing “myopic viewpoint” that police and military shouldn’t work closely together. “Times have changed,” the official said.
And indeed, the official added, the VPD MLU garnered a flood of Olympics funding to hire personnel with battleground experience and become more well-equipped than many military brigades. The MLU also helped forge agreements between Vancouver police and Canadian Forces outlining jurisdictional and logistical responsibilities when operating together. Today, MLU training continues with major exercises occurring between four and six times per year at a US National Guard facility in Yakima, Washington, says Molnar, typically involving the US Department of Defense, US Army, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and Washington National Guard, often working alongside Canadian Forces military personnel and police officers from Vancouver, Victoria and/or Calgary. Molnar says participants use live ammunition in “reality-based training” of “asymmetrical warfare operations” modelled on foreign military occupations and urban house-to-house tactical fighting. Police and military also train each other in their respective rules of engagement and use of force, explosives ordinance disposal, vehicle and person searches, prisoner handling, crowd control, building raids and room clearing, and counter-terrorism responses in urban domains.