WATCH: An independent report into the deaths of three RCMP officers, shot to death in Moncton last June, found they didn’t have the weapons or body armour they needed and the force knew they needed such equipment years ago. Ross Lord reports.
MONCTON – A review of the fatal RCMP shootings in Moncton says the Mounties faced a number of challenges that included communicating accurate information, accessing high-powered weaponry and securing hard body armour.
The report released Friday makes 64 recommendations that call for better access to shotguns and rifles, standard equipment for emergency response teams, improvements in radio communication and training to better prepare supervisors for critical incidents.
It highlighted a number of challenges the RCMP faced when they were searching for Justin Bourque, who was arrested 28 hours after the June 4 shooting rampage began.
“Accurate risk assessments were difficult as members were calling for ambulances to multiple locations,” the 180-page report said.
“Sightings were being reported based on caller location (as opposed to suspect location), then broadcast out of order. There were wounded members in need of medical attention. … Based on the radio traffic, it would have been nearly impossible to form an accurate tactical view of the situation.”
While there were five RCMP tactical armoured vehicles deployed for emergency response team use, one tactical armoured vehicle from the Quebec RCMP was not deployed as it was in Montreal and not requested, the report said.
“The RCMP TAV was designed for this type of operation and, given the scale of this incident, having as many as possible was essential,” it said. “To mitigate the shortage of TAVs, commercial armoured trucks were put into use.”
One RCMP tactical armoured vehicle from Nova Scotia was dispatched but it broke down and a mechanic was sent to fix it. The report recommended tactical armoured vehicles travelling long distances should go by rail or flatbed truck.
WATCH: RCMP make statement regarding adoption of recommendations
Many RCMP officers did not know that hard body armour was available in vehicles while others were not familiar with how to wear the equipment properly, the report said.
“This all speaks to a general lack of knowledge and understanding with respect to how and when HBA must be worn,” the report said.
Some of the report’s recommendations deal with aftercare, such as psychological counselling.
The RCMP said it accepts all of the recommendations and has started implementing them.
“We must learn from this tragedy,” RCMP deputy commissioner Janice Armstrong said in a statement.
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“It is our duty to make sure all RCMP employees on the front lines are as prepared as possible to meet the threats we face every day.”
The review was headed by retired RCMP commanding officer and assistant commissioner Alphonse MacNeil.
He said he feels it would be beneficial to speak to Bourque to learn more about his motivations.
He also emphasized clarity in communications as an area to improve, saying that oversight from senior officers in command centres and video links allowing each command centre to share its screens would be key to achieving that goal.
The report said plain language commands should be issued over radio by police to avoid confusion and delays in communicating information.
“There was a tendency for members to avoid using plain language on the radio due to a lack of encryption and a desire to avoid broadcasting details to the public,” the report said. “RCMP training instructs members to use 10 codes (despite their being widely available in the public domain) for this purpose. Members should be encouraged to use plain language in crisis situations.”
RCMP assistant commissioner Roger Brown said implementing some changes, like a new radio communications system, could be complicated by factors including cost and the complexity of equipping every officer with the new equipment.
Brown said his views on policing had changed since the shootings. He said every member of the RCMP needs to read the report because its recommendations affect every officer.
“I believe there are things in there for every member of the RCMP,” he said.
Brown said he believes the RCMP will deliver on its promise to put in motion the steps to address the recommendations within a year. He said it could be a few years before all the changes are implemented.
“Let’s really take a hold of this report…to learn from what happened that night, zero in on it, and understand the future of policing and, collectively, what we have to do,” he said.
WATCH: Wife of fallen RCMP officer delivers emotional statement following review of Moncton shootings.
In October, Bourque was sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 75 years after pleading guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.
The 25-year-old Bourque admitted in a statement to police that he used a semi-automatic rifle to shoot the five officers in the city’s north end.
Afterwards, he fled into the woods near a suburban neighbourhood, where he was later arrested.
Bourque killed constables Dave Ross, Fabrice Gevaudan and Doug Larche. Constables Eric Dubois and Darlene Goguen were injured.
With Global News files
Review quick facts
Some of the key recommendations in the report on the fatal shootings:
- Better training is needed to prepare supervisors to manage such incidents until a critical incident commander assumes command.
- General duty officers who are trained in the use of a long-barreled gun where they are available must ensure the weapon is in their vehicle while on duty.
- Firearms must be stored with sufficient ammunition.
- All officers should receive a briefing and demonstration on the appropriate use of hard body armour.
- The Codiac detachment in southeast New Brunswick should look at radio coverage outside of central Moncton because there are areas with gaps in coverage.
- Officers should be allowed to use plain language on radio communications instead of a code system in urgent situations.
- Members of the RCMP need better access to ammunition for practice.
- The RCMP should consider broadening its support for initiatives that support young people with mental illness.
- The RCMP’s critical incident stress management team should include experienced psychologists who understand policing, experienced RCMP peer support personnel, RCMP chaplains and nurses trained for such situations.
- The RCMP should expedite the deployment of patrol carbines, a type of assault rifle used by the military and many police departments, across the force.
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