The Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team’s menacing new armoured vehicle looks like something Batman would drive in the Dark Knight, and it’s coming to Greater Victoria in 2018.
Purchased by the GVERT, the Terradyne Gurkha multipurpose vehicle costs $320,635 and will arrive in April. It will be based out of VicPD’s downtown station and will replace the 10-year-old armoured vehicle that GVERT currently uses, one that’s life span is nearing an end.
GVERT was created in 1976 and currently draws 56 members from the police forces that serve Victoria, Esquimalt, Saanich, Oak Bay and Central Saanich, with one full time employee, the tactical team leader.
While some have criticized similar police purchases of armoured vehicles as an unnecessary militarization of police, Saanich Police Sgt. Jereme Leslie, who spoke for GVERT on Wednesday, said it serves a basic purpose and, is the fulfillment of a long term plan to replace the team’s current truck, a converted 1993 International.
“The International was designed to deliver money to banks, and it was purchased 10 years ago as an interim solution,” Leslie said. “It’s a 24-year-old truck, its life span is nearing an end.”
GVERT customized that vehicle, a used Brink’s security truck, adding ceramic tiles to make it bullet proof.
The new Terradyne comes “ballistic ready,” meaning it can withstand bullets and small explosions. Built in Ontario, it’s the same armoured vehicle used by the emergency response teams in Calgary, Winnipeg and Hamilton, while other cities have similar vehicles by different companies. Saudi Arabia purchased what’s believed to be dozens of Terradyne Gurkhas and have been criticized for using them in unsanctioned combat and in situations that violate human rights.
“It’s for a high risk threat where firearms are involved, that’s basically what they’re used for,” Leslie said. “Victoria is made up of a variety of landscapes, urban and rural, and this vehicle will allow GVERT to get into off-road areas in a safe manner that the International can’t.”
Terradyne builds the Gurkhas in Newmarket, Ont. on a 4×4 Ford F550 chassis and uses Ford’s 6.7-litre V8 diesel engine with a six-speed automatic transmission.
“Last year [GVERT] deployed their armoured vehicle nine times and over the past 10 years, it’s averaged a deployment of seven times per year, specifically for ballistic protection,” Leslie said.
Saanich Insp. Trent Edwards is the current officer in charge of GVERT (a role that shifts around).
Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt had criticized the police’s need for such a tank-like vehicle, saying that type of armoured vehicle should remain under the purview of the Canadian Forces. However, it would necessitate significant law changes as not the Canadian Forces are without the lawful authority for everyday policing, and the government would need to declare a national emergency related to public welfare in order mobilize the army, navy or air force.
“The vehicle is designed to safely bring officers into a dangerous situation where there is a threat of facing firearms, this is something that happens,” Leslie said. “The vehicle is designed to withstand impacts by bullets and other blasts, GVERT members can ride inside it or stand behind it and know they are protected from harm.”
Funding for GVERT is joint between the partner agencies with a budget overseen by a joint management team comprised of representatives from each agency, Leslie said. GVERT paid for about half of the $320,635 and is borrowing the rest from the Municipal Finance Authority of B.C.