HALIFAX — The Nova Scotia government is introducing restrictions on access to used police gear in reaction to last year's mass shooting by a gunman who wore an RCMP uniform and drove a replica police cruiser.
Justice Minister Randy Delorey said Thursday the Police Identity Management Act is expected to be passed in the spring session, about a year after the 13-hour rampage last April 18-19 by a killer who took 22 lives before he was killed by police.
"There are things we can do to help prevent the recurrence of a similar tragedy, and that is the premise for today's bill," the minister said during a briefing.
"This is about decreasing the risk of someone with criminal intent from acquiring items that could be used to impersonate a police officer."
In the days following the rampage, calls mounted for restrictions that would end the trade in surplus or unneeded police uniforms, as existing law only prohibits using the gear to impersonate a police officer.
The new legislation would make it illegal for unauthorized individuals to create, possess or sell the equipment. It would also restrict ownership of police vehicle decals and police vehicle equipment to police and some others — such as film production companies — who will be governed by specific regulations.
Former police officers will be allowed to keep ceremonial uniforms and badges, but they must be rendered "unserviceable," and the law will require the general public to forfeit or "permanently alter" any police-issued items they currently own.
A person may possess the articles or uniforms if it is for a museum exhibit or drama, but they can only possess them for the duration of the exhibition or work.
The killer's replica car, complete with flashing police lights and RCMP decals made at a Nova Scotia fabricator, was kept at one of his properties in Portapique, N.S.
Police said in the days after the rampage that the police uniform and almost exact replica patrol car helped the suspect to move around the province for such a long period of time before he was stopped.
Under the new legislation — which Delorey described as the most comprehensive of its kind in the country — police agencies will be required to have asset management and disposal polices in place for police-issued items and vehicles.
He acknowledged that many police agencies are already taking steps to control the flow of used equipment, noting the RCMP in Nova Scotia recently destroyed nearly seven tonnes of surplus kit and clothing.
"The measures proposed in this bill will re-establish confidence in the uniforms, tools and symbols that identify police officers in our province," Delorey said.
Statements provided by police last year to support search warrants said the killer made suspicious financial transactions to purchase "vehicle accessories commonly used by police, including items explicitly labelled as being intended for police use via eBay."
In the court documents released last September, RCMP investigators described a series of 2019 transactions the gunman made via PayPal as he created his mock police vehicle. The purchases included a light bar, siren light controls, a dashboard camera, vinyl decals and a push bar for the front of the car.
The new law would make owning such items illegal for most members of the general public.
"In this legislation it doesn't matter the means by which someone comes into possession of an article, the mere possession in and of itself would be a violation," Delorey said.
An infraction under the law by an individual would carry a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than three months, or both.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 11, 2021.
Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press