EDITORIAL: Better safe than sorry

Police response to a 911 call in South Surrey Wednesday has been termed ‘overkill’ by some, but necessarily nonetheless.

They’re damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.

Police response to a 911 call in South Surrey midday Wednesday has been termed ‘overkill’ by some, particularly since the call, reporting a violent domestic incident, turned out to be a prank.

To most, the sight of RCMP members armed with assault rifles, a tactical armoured vehicle, a canine squad – and about a dozen other vehicles – swarming a quiet Peninsula neighbourhood is disturbing.

As an image of the increasing militarization of our police forces, it makes us long for some kinder, gentler past where the idea of massed police response and ‘lockdowns’ of schools – both H.T. Thrift Elementary and Semiahmoo Secondary took that preventative measure at the request of the RCMP – were virtually unknown; when the most likely first responder was a solitary beat officer, or a single squad car.

But, given the times in which we live, what would we have the police do?

Numerous incidents of murders and standoffs between shooters and police in domestic cases – even over the last year – have heightened our awareness of the volatility of such situations.

It’s been a sad fact of life, ever since the formation of modern police forces, that responders, no matter how brave or well-trained, never know what they’re walking into.

And domestic situations have been among the deadliest, even in the kinder, gentler past we like to imagine. (It’s close to 100 years ago that a Vancouver chief constable was killed while attempting, courageously, to confront an armed and dangerous man barricaded in an apartment with his spouse.)

It’s easy to decry heavily armed officers surrounding a home containing only one confused and alarmed resident. But, had the situation been a genuine one – a murder, say, committed by a distraught, desperate, armed individual – what would have been the outcome of sending only one or two patrol officers to knock on the door? It’s possible we would have been reporting a tragedy in which two or three or more had died.

When the safety of our residents, our children, our officers – even the life of an apparent perpetrator – are at stake, it’s better to be there with too much, too soon, than be there with too little, too late.

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