A Vancouver Police Department recruitment video taken down in response to criticism of its militarized, “Hollywood” vision of policing has left behind some lingering concerns.
The video was posted to the VPD’s Twitter feed on Tuesday and faced immediate backlash over its content and style.
“I was astonished at how inappropriate the footage was,” said Meenakshi Mannoe, a criminalization and policing campaigner at Pivot Legal Society.
The video was composed of rapid cuts between footage of officers clad all in black, wearing tactical vests, body armor and helmets, and carrying large guns. The officers were shown rappelling down the sides of buildings and ships, and dangling from helicopters.
The video is set to an intense instrumental soundtrack – music that would not feel out of place in a Batman movie.
The police department pulled the video from Twitter later the same day in response to a flood of negative feedback about the imagery, writing in a tweet, “We apologize if the images were upsetting for some, particularly during current world events.”
After listening to your feedback, we have pulled the “tactical response” video. We apologize if the images were upsetting for some, particularly during current world events.
Mannoe described the video as a “glamorizing and Hollywood” portrayal of police, not representative of the realities of policing in Vancouver.
“It’s certainly out of step with what a lot of the VPD claims it’s doing, which they claim is about communities and supporting marginalized people,” she said.
She said she’s concerned about the type of people who might be attracted to the VPD by a video highlighting military-style equipment and lethal weapons.
“It’s designed to appeal to folks who buy into a certain type of machismo, who buy into this intense pace of policing, of climbing out of buildings, jumping out of planes,” Mannoe said.
Gurpreet Singh Johal, a criminology instructor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, said the video reminded him of an action movie trailer, or scenes from a first-person shooter video game. He argues that reactions to the video depend on the viewer’s stance on the role of police.
“Using war metaphors, using military visuals, is frightening for a segment of the population that might consider themselves as liberal, that want to think of the police as benevolent and in the service of society,” he said.
VPD looking for recruits ready for ‘a challenge’
VPD spokesperson Sgt. Steve Addison said the video was produced as part of a series meant to highlight the “diversity of career opportunities” available to new recruits.
“Policing is a dangerous, but rewarding job. Anyone who wants to become a police officer needs to know what opportunities await, and what may be expected of them. Recruits who are willing to take on that challenge are exactly the ones we need and want , “Addison wrote in an email.
He pushed back on suggestions that the video misrepresents the typical duties of an officer, writing that the VPD’s emergency response unit responds to about one “critical incident” every day.
He listed a handful of recent examples dating back to Jan. 20 that include responding to a suspicious package near a Canada Line station, arresting a sex offender on a Canada-wide warrant and saving a suicidal woman trying to jump from the Burrard Bridge.
Johal said he questions how often the tactical gear shown in the video would be necessary for those types of calls.
“Who are you trying to entice? Who finds that type of imagery appealing? Who’s their target audience?”