"Police on every corner" may be a cliché of the past as the Integrated Security Unit pares down its personnel for the Paralympics.
RCMP Cpl. Bert Paquet, a spokesman for ISU, said in an e-mail that about 750 RCMP members and 500 Canadian Forces members will handle security for the Paralympic Games that begin Friday. That's down from 6,000 police and 4,500 Canadian Forces personnel during the Olympics.
The numbers and visibility of law enforcement officers led some to suggest that Vancouver and Whistler had turned into police states. Such assessments are unlikely for the Paralympics.
"Security measures for the Paralympics are consistent with the scale of the Games," Paquet wrote in his e-mail. "They will ensure the safety and security of the Paralympic athletes and the public is maintained at all times."
He went on to say that the security workforce for the Paralympics will be comprised "almost entirely" of RCMP members from British Columbia, with a few specialized units brought in for assistance from other areas of the country.
Private security personnel will remain for the Paralympics, taking charge of mag-and-bag screenings at Games venues, much as they did during the Olympics. There were 4,800 private security personnel employed during the Olympics but far fewer are expected during the Paralympics.
Paquet would not elaborate when asked what kinds of threats athletic venues faced during the Olympic Games. He said no "real serious threats" were reported in regard to Whistler venues and that a "small number of skiers" were successfully re-directed when they got too close to security zones.
In a separate interview, Capt. Peter Fuerbringer of the Canadian Forces said military personnel encountered approximately 60 skiers in the backcountry who had gotten too close to the Whistler Athletes' Village. He said half were accredited personnel and the other half were "citizens enjoying the backcountry." These represented the extent of the threats faced by the athletes' village, according to Fuerbringer.
"Everything was really cordial and positive after the fact," he said.
Two UBC students who skied down Cakehole on Whistler Mountain Jan. 31 were detained and questioned for five hours. The students said they were not aware of any backcountry restrictions and were surprised to find themselves being interrogated.
"Aside from that, my understanding was that everything was pretty cordial," Fuerbringer said.
Outside their duties intercepting skiers in the backcountry, Canadian Forces personnel also had a low-profile role escorting athletes and VIPs between various venues.
Fuerbringer said about 61 personnel were dressed in blue toques and jackets, similar to the dress of most VANOC employees, and acted as a "ceremonial contingent" escorting important people associated with the Games.
"They were both down in Vancouver and up here in Whistler," he said. "They did athlete escort, they were also helping with VIP escort as well, mainly in the right seat of a vehicle, helping the other volunteers as well.
"You'll see them again, they have their Canadian Forces uniforms as well, so they'll be doing their ceremonial duty as well."
Fuerbringer vehemently denied that military personnel carried weapons beneath their blue uniforms.
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