There was no specific threat to Princeton that prompted the presence of a heavily armed RCMP officer at the town’s Remembrance Day service on November 11, according to Sergeant Barry Kennedy.
“Given the current state of affairs around the world the RCMP has now mandated that at its public events we are required to provide lethal over-watch…any event that could be deemed a target for possible terrorists,” said Kennedy.
The mandate was issued two years ago, following the attack on the Canadian National War Memorial where a soldier was killed.
“That was the trigger point, that we could now be subject to these kinds of acts,” said Kennedy.
“It’s the new way of life in the RCMP that we have to have someone to respond immediately to any threat that happens at a public event.”
The officer assigned to Princeton Saturday wore a dark blue uniform and held a carbine, a semi-automatic rifle. He stood alone at the back of the assembled crowd.
The detachment received several calls from concerned residents following the service.
“They were wondering why there was a man standing there, with what they called an assault rifle, watching the parade. They wanted to know if we were expecting something or did we have information about something.”
An officer similarly armed was at the 2016 service but “he was not as public as this one.”
In addition to requiring a lethal over-watch to attend certain events, the RCMP has also mandated that members wearing red serge must wear their side arms.
Previously officers in ceremonial dress did not have to be armed.
“Yes we are all armed, of course the bullet proof vest doesn’t fit well under that serge,” Kennedy said.
In the event of an attack “the guys in red serge have to be able to get to a spot of cover or get to their vests…it’s the responsibility of the lethal over-watcher to provide cover until the guys can get [into a position].”