Ottawa Police Station on Elgin Street is one of many who were prompted to equip tactical unit officers with newly purchased night vision goggles. Mazen Abouelata, Centretown News

Night vision goggles enhance public safety: Ottawa police

By Mazen Abouelata

The Ottawa Police Service has revealed details about how 29 sets of night vision goggles — purchased by the force two years ago for $400,000 — have been deployed in a variety of dangerous circumstances and concluded that their use “enhances public and officer safety.”

Sandy Smallwood, a member of the police services board, asked for information about the use of the goggles at a meeting earlier this year. At the board’s Sept. 25 meeting, the police force tabled its response in a brief report — the first public disclosure about the use of the new gear.

“The acquisition of Night Vision Goggles was an important step for the Tactical Unit as it improved the capabilities of the Unit to operate at night and in low-light circumstances and replaced outdated equipment,” the report stated.

Tactical squads dedicate 20 hours of yearly training on night vision goggles, the report noted.  It also revealed that the police force doesn’t keep track of the goggles’ usage rate.

However, the report did disclose that members of the tactical unit had worn the goggles during rescue missions and other operations, including “a K9 track of a murder suspect” in which police dogs followed the scent of a fugitive from “an urban to rural environment.”

The report added: “They have also been deployed during several containment calls for barricaded people. Recently, the NVGs were deployed to assist Patrol in locating an armed man with military training suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.”

The report said the 2015 acquisition of the goggles was due to a previous lack of equipment that had risked officers’ lives.

“The upgraded capabilities were purchased as a direct result of an operational deficiency identified after an extremely high risk tactical operation during which the previous equipment placed our officers in unnecessary risk,” the report said.

The incident that prompted the purchase, according to a 2015 city report, was the October 2014 shootings at the National War Memorial and Parliament Hill. The incident resulted in the death Cpl. Nathan Cirillo as he guarded the Elgin Street monument, and the later death of gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau after he stormed into Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings.

“Several reviews, including that of the shooting on Parliament Hill, have identified this requirement,” the 2015 report said.

According to several media outlets at the time, tactical officers deployed on the day of the shooting had difficulty patrolling and communicating through the darkened corridors of the Hill buildings.

Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau later spoke about the difficulty of executing operations at night time.

“We’ve got rural areas,” Bordeleau told CTV News in a 2015 interview. “We’ve got wooded areas. We’re looking for missing people. Put that in a night setting, and our officers are at a disadvantage.”

The goggles were purchased from Night Vision Depot via Millbrook Tactical, an Ottawa-based company. The devices are “dual-tube night vision goggles/monocular which offer outstanding depth perception and supportability,” the Night Vision Depot website states.

The product description says the goggles can remain operational for more than 40 hours with a lithium AA battery. The website also says the wearer can use one or both lenses for optimal night vision.

“Never before could you utilize the depth perception of a collimated dual tube goggle and the convenience of a monocular in one system without switching equipment,” the website states.

Moreover, the report mentioned the goggles use light-gathering tubes that collect visible and infrared illumination. After minimal light is gathered, the tubes amplify the light to provide an enhanced image for the users.

The Sept. 25 report concluded by ensuring that the tactical unit will continue to use the goggles in more operations in the future.

“The Tactical Unit continues to work to develop its NVG program and has dedicated one day of team training in the coming months for all members on the devices,” the report said.