This photo showing the gunman changing clothes beside a replica RCMP vehicle is displayed at a media briefing RCMP headquarters in Dartmouth, N.S., Tuesday, April 28, 2020. The Nova Scotia RCMP say the replica police car driven by a gunman who killed 22 people this month was obtained in the fall of 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

This photo showing the gunman changing clothes beside a replica RCMP vehicle is displayed at a media briefing RCMP headquarters in Dartmouth, N.S., Tuesday, April 28, 2020. The Nova Scotia RCMP say the replica police car driven by a gunman who killed 22 people this month was obtained in the fall of 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Calls for crackdown on public trade in police gear after Nova Scotia shootings

Shooter had acquired four former police vehicles at auctions

Whether it’s the auctioning of police light bars or the availability of official RCMP decals, people familiar with the public trade in police gear say it’s time to crack down on the potentially dangerous practice.

Their comments come after the RCMP revealed further details this week about how a Nova Scotia man acquired four former police vehicles at auctions, then used one of them in a murderous rampage across the province.

The killer had carefully painted and added flashing lights to one of the vehicles, which helped him escape the rural community of Portapique on April 18 after taking the lives of his first 13 victims.

After evading police and avoiding interception, Gabriel Wortman, 51, went on to kill nine more people the next day before officers shot and killed him.

David Giles, vice president of All EV Canada, an electric vehicle service and sales company, says during his 30-year career as an auto technician he’s often seen used police gear and decals for sale at auctions.

Giles, a frequent Crown expert witness on automotive issues, says police should end the practice of selling the gear to the highest bidders.

“I think those items should be restricted. They shouldn’t fall into the general public’s hands,” he said in an interview.

Giles provided internet links to light bars from decommissioned police vehicles being sold at recent public auctions in the Halifax area.

He also sent a link to a federal government procurement site, where the specifications for how to manufacture RCMP decals are available for the general public to view — a practice he said should be kept more confidential.

A review of recently sold items on www.GCSurplus.ca, which is managed by Public Services and Procurement Canada, shows dozens of police cars were purchased between November 2018 and February 2019.

Prices ranged from $1,150 for a 2011 Ford Crown Victoria to $31,200 for a five-speed 2018 Dodge Charger.

While these sales are permitted, it is explicitly illegal under the federal Criminal Code for anyone to use them to impersonate a police officer.

However, provincial legislation doesn’t always explicitly prohibit ordinary citizens from owning items such as the distinctive light bars of police vehicles, with their flashing red lights.

For example, in Nova Scotia, Section 179 of the Motor Vehicle Act prohibits people from moving on a highway with the flashing lights — but doesn’t explicitly prohibit owning the light bars.

Police unions and associations say it’s time to tighten up those rules in light of the potential dangers that the Nova Scotia gunman’s actions demonstrated.

“There’s a lot of merit in having some very good, robust provincial regulations around the sale and possession and use of police equipment,” Tom Stamatakis, the president of the Canadian Police Association, said in an interview.

Stamatakis said the original intent of provincial regulations was simply to prohibit the public ownership of items such as light bars.

“Unfortunately there have been many people who have argued that non-law enforcement personnel should have access to equipment,” he said.

“The definitions of some of those regulations have been extended unnecessarily.”

READ MORE: Nova Scotia gunman acquired police car last fall at auction: RCMP

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said Wednesday he is sure that recommendations on the resale of police items will emerge as a result of the police investigation into the killings.

“Not only here in Nova Scotia but I’m sure nationally they’ll be looking at how do we address the issue of surplus equipment from law enforcement agencies across the country,” he said.

Dean Goodine, a film property manager in Summerland, B.C., said in an interview that police vehicles used in movies are tightly regulated.

The replica vehicles are approved by police lawyers, and after completion the painted vehicles are returned to the RCMP and the graphics are destroyed, said Goodine.

He said production teams can purchase items from special prop stores, but those aren’t open to the general public.

“However, it’s astonishing to me what’s available at public auction,” he added.

In addition, he noted the painting of the vehicle wouldn’t be overly difficult.

“It’s quite easy now for anybody who had money and access to printers. You could go online and find every conceivable thing you need to do this,” Goodine said.

READ MORE: Funerals and tributes for Nova Scotia victims, one week after mass shooting

Police in Ontario are investigating two incidents of officer impersonation in recent weeks.

Provincial police are looking for a suspect after a woman in Lakeshore was pulled over by a vehicle with red and blue flashing lights and approached by a man wearing what appeared to be a police uniform last Thursday.

In Wellington County, Ont., a 25-year-old man was charged with impersonating a peace officer last week in relation to an incident on April 17 — the day before Wortman began his rampage in Nova Scotia.

Investigators say a family was riding their bikes in Puslinch, about 80 kilometres southwest of Toronto, when they were stopped by what appeared to be an unmarked police vehicle.

Police say the SUV was equipped with a push bumper and flashing lights, and the driver could be heard yelling over a public address system.

— With files from Keith Doucette in Halifax.

Michael Tutton and Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Mass shootingsNova ScotiaRCMP

Just Posted

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

Okanagan Lake (File photo)
Thompson-Okanagan ready to welcome back tourists

The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association expects this summer to be a busy one

Aerial view of a wildfire at 16 Mile, 11 kilometres northwest of Cache Creek, that started on the afternoon of June 15. (Photo credit: BC Wildfire Service)
Wildfire at 16 Mile now being held

Wildfire started on the afternoon of June 15 at 16 Mile, east of Highway 97

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Most Read