These 5 Vancouver high-security worksites are indispensable – and invisible – to British Columbians. Your tour begins now.
On your way to work, dropping the kids off at practice, heading out of town, you’ve probably driven by them without giving them a second thought: non-descript, partially obscured, often windowless buildings. Behind the anonymous exteriors, teams of experts toil at crucial work that keeps the province’s wheels spinning. We’ve knocked on the doors, taken the elevators to the top, and made it past security to the inner sanctums, to raise the curtain and share the secrets of five of the most important places you never knew existed.
Tactical Training Centre, East Vancouver
Aveteran Vancouver Police Department officer attends a domestic dispute, police confront bank robbers with hostages, and a research scientist defends himself against a charging grizzly – all under one roof at the 50,000-square-foot Tactical Training Centre, nestled under the VCC SkyTrain station.
“There’s heavy concrete so you can drive a vehicle in there. It has a running-man system so you can move targets laterally,” explains VPD staff sergeant Mark Horsley, TTC planning and safety supervisor. “It has a charging target; we can do a rhino but no one has asked yet.”
A 25-metre and a 50-metre firing range, two simulation rooms, a gymnasium for training, and classrooms all provide tactical training for law enforcement, military and security personnel. The VPD uses half the capacity of the City-owned building; the balance is used for instructor development or is rented to other agencies.
“Training done here isn’t just weapons; it’s everything they do,” says Horsley, including communication skills and what he describes as “empty-handed control,” which includes such defensive tactics as arm-grabbing or using pressure points. Scenarios are drawn from actual cases, with the level of police response escalating or de-escalating depending on an officer’s skill.
The building is as green as it is blue: non-toxic copper and tin bullets are used for target practice, rather than lead bullets, and the subsequent increased ammo costs are mitigated by lower energy expenses, since the building lacks heating and cooling. “It isn’t made to be comfortable,” explains Horsley; “it’s like shooting in the city.”
The training centre could operate continuously 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but in practice, a 60-hour training week sees 40 people move through the facility a day in eight-hour shifts.
Cost-recovery measures include teaming up with the RCMP to buy paper targets in bulk, then recycling them (turns out bullet holes aren’t an inconvenience in the resale market). Ammo is bought direct from the manufacturer, and staff sweep up the copper dust for resale to metal recyclers. “It’s very unique for cops to wrap their minds around the concept of cost recovery through exchanging and sharing space,” says Horsley.