Body Armour Regulation in BC

b.200.200.16777215.0.stories.2008.vestThere was a fair bit of press today about the proposed legislation to regulate the sale of body armour in British Columbia.

The rationale is to give Police an additional charge that they can lay against a gangster wearing a bullet-proof vest, the fashion accessory of choice by most of Vancouver’s gang members it would seem.

I was interviewed by Canadian Security Magazine for a story on the topic… and specifically about the impact of regulation on the private security industry.

In a nutshell, I’m a little skeptical of how successful legislation like this would be in actually deterring criminals from possessing and wearing body armour. I think that we’ve already got more than enough laws in place. What seems to be missing is enough happening once someone has been charged with an offense. If we can’t keep someone in jail long enough after they have been convicted of manslaughter, what are the chances of an ‘illegal use of body armour’ charge being taken seriously?

Insofar as some of the talk in the security industry about mandating that security guards wear body armour, the logic of that escapes me as well. Creating additional rules and regulations, the full costs of which will be passed on to small businesses, seems to be an ineffective strategy if the goal is to impact criminals.

Here’s an excerpt from the magazine article where I’m quoted… (you can read the full article here)

But not everyone agrees with the proposal.

Mike Jagger, founder and president of Vancouver-based security firm Provident Security Corp., says such legislation will probably do little to deter criminals or solve the problem.

“You’re talking about a group of people who make their living importing and distributing illegal drugs and shoot at rival gang members with illegal guns,” he says. “I fail to see how regulating the sale of body armour does anything to impact that other than getting in the way of regular people.”

Creating more laws might look good, but that’s about it, he says. “There are more than enough rules in place right now that they can’t enforce,” Jagger says. “There aren’t enough resources to enforce what already exists, so adding more rules and levels of bureaucracy — I don’t get it.”

It shouldn’t be up to the government to decide who is or is not at risk, he says. It’s obvious that body armour is necessary for some jobs, such as that of armoured car driver or police officer or corrections officer, but often it’s more a matter of how threatened the employee feels.

“It feels to me like legislation created for the purpose of being seen to do something without a lot of thought going into what’s the purpose,” he adds. “I think personal safety is just that — it’s personal, and employees need to be empowered to communicate whether or not they feel safe in a situation and do whatever it takes to be safe. They should never be put at risk, and that’s a combination of having a good company and people being responsible for themselves. If you’re missing one of those things, legislation is not going to have much of an impact.”

Jagger disagrees that body armour should be seen the same way as a helmet or a seatbelt. Treating it as an occupational health and safety issue is just “one of the best of the worst ways” to handle it, he says.

“If it’s really about personal safety, then why not focus on getting that message out to employees to educate them on what they can do to better protect themselves irrespective of who they work for?”

CSIS’s next step is to send the B.C. government a letter outlining the results of the survey.

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