The Expansion and Normalization of Police Militarization in Canada
Despite extensive analysis of police militarization in the United States (US), the case in Canada has been overlooked. Building on Kraska’s (in Policing 1(4):501–513, 2007) framework of police militarization indicators, this paper examines militarization within Canadian police forces between 2007 and 2016. Drawing from data on deployments disclosed under freedom of information law, our research shows deployment of special weapons and tactics (SWAT) teams have escalated in many major Canadian cities and are even higher in some cases than those reported by Kraska on militarization of US public police. We show how SWAT teams are increasingly used by public police for routine police activities such as warrant work, traffic enforcement, community policing, and even responding to mental health crises and domestic disturbances. We also analyze data on SWAT team growth, and benchmarking between police service SWAT units. We conclude by reflecting on the implications for public policing in Canada and avenues for future research on police militarization and police violence in Canada and other countries.
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