At the end of a quiet street in East Vancouver, close to VCC-Clark skytrain station, stands the VPD’s Tactical Training Centre. Within its concrete, LEED-certified walls, candidates undergo weeks of training in the use of force, firearms, and reality-based scenarios.
The Vancouver Police Department opened its doors last week, giving Vancity Buzz an insider look at a day in the life of a police officer.
Sergeant Clive Milligan, a trainer with over 28 years of police force experience, led the discussion on use of force and reaction time. Introducing Canada’s National Use of Force model, he discussed how today’s police officers are “judged by the court of YouTube.” In doing so, the VPD has the opportunity to continuously learn from past mistakes – especially, Milligan added wryly, from examining the footage of their counterparts across the border.
All jovial smiles and self-deprecating humour aside, the room got noticeably tenser when Milligan talked through some real-life scenarios – the same as the ones he trains cops to face throughout their careers. Milligan expanded on that “teeter-totter point” between passive resistance and assaultive behaviour, using various YouTube clips to effectively emphasize how a situation can accelerate from normal to dangerous, all in the blink of an eye.
Some other useful and random tidbits Milligan dropped during the talk:
- People are “absolutely” allowed to film officers, as it’s a public event happening in a public setting.
- “Tactical disengagement” is better known as running away, and the VPD do it all the time to get out of risky situations.
- “Tango Hotel” is code for the VPD’s number one hangout: Tim Horton’s.
After a brief safety demo, Sergeant Rom Ranallo led participants through a few live rounds with moving targets – first with a handgun, then with a scoped carbine. It was the first time I had shot a firearm in my life, and both were doggedly hard to aim through clammy fingers and recoil. But as a purely physical exercise, shooting seemed to be all about muscle memory. Ranallo claimed he could train almost anyone to shoot consistently; get enough training under your belt, and eventually you will hit the target time and time again.
The rest of the day featured roleplaying and reality-based training, both of which figure prominently in officer training. It was here that I experienced what cops commonly refer to as “adrenaline dumps” – those moments where your body suddenly registers a threat and goes into fight or flight mode. It’s usually when most people freeze, and when officers are meticulously trained to do the opposite – to assess and react, all under very short timeframes.
After a few of these moments, I started to understand why it’s commonly accepted that officers have a shorter life expectancy than most Canadians, even after factoring out all of the physical dangers of the job. To get that hyped up on adrenaline in such frequent doses can’t be healthy, and I left the day with a newfound appreciation for the men and women that make up Vancouver’s finest.
As Sergeant Clive Milligan put it at the beginning of the session: “When there’s time, there’s time… When there’s no time, it’s time.”