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Conservation officers get side arms

Selected conservation and natural resource officers in Saskatchewan and Manitoba will soon be carrying side arms.

Both provincial governments announced Dec. 15 that enforcement officers working in the field will carry semi-automatic hand guns. In Saskatchewan about 150 of 225 officers will get pistols, provided they pass a screening test. In Manitoba, about 125 officers will be issued the weapons.

Lorne Scott, Saskatchewan’s environment minister, said the government decision was made largely because of an occupational health and safety report that said conservation officers were not adequately protected in some situations. This fall, some officers refused to go out on patrols they considered to be unusually dangerous.

Scott said it took some time to put the right training and screening programs in place.

“Our officers that have side arms will have the same training and the same requirements will apply to them as any municipal police force in Saskatchewan,” he said.

Manitoba natural resources minister Glen Cummings said safety of the officers, who increasingly encounter dangerous situations, is the government’s number one priority.

“Field officers enforce well over 20 acts and regulations as well as the criminal code,” he said. “Increased penalties, including vehicle seizures and jail sentences for wildlife offences, have increased concerns about the potential for serious confrontations during the course of an NRO’s normal duties.”

Field officers in both provinces will undergo psychological screening and be fully trained and certified in side-arms training.

All other provinces issue side-arms except Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island. Federal fisheries workers and Canadian Wildlife Service staff also carry them.

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