After three stormy years at the helm of New Brunswick’s RCMP, Assistant Commissioner Roger Brown is about to become captain of a different ship. The 36 year RCMP veteran will retire this Saturday, June 4, two years to the day he lost three of his own.
“There is not a day goes by that I don’t rethink the events of that day. I often think — there’s three families fatherless, there’s six children, there’s members on scene that worked closely with Dave, Doug and Fabrice,” Brown said aboard his new boat, in an interview with Global News.
Brown first requested a post in New Brunswick when he joined the force more than three decades ago. When he finally got his wish, it proved to be a tumultuous posting that included the event he describes as the low point of his career.
Saturday marks the second anniversary of the day a gunman in Moncton shot and killed three RCMP constables and wounded two others, leading police on a tense 30-hour manhunt that paralyzed the city.
Roger’s brother, Wayne hopes his new boat, named “Saltwater Joys” will help heal his soul. The Lord Nelson Victory tug is one of only 76 in the world.
“I think it represents peace and quiet — yes just gentleness and freedom,” Wayne said.
“What could I have done differently?”
Two years later, Brown says he still battles with the thought, “What could I have done differently?”
“I think that is normal and that is human,” he said. “But the fact of the matter is I did what I could with what I had.”
He still carries the weight of that day like an anchor on his heart.
“It’s something that you are going to learn to live with,” he said, adding that he hasn’t quite managed to do that yet.
Brown says he now knows what it’s like first hand to battle anxiety and depression.
“Absolutely I did, and probably still do truth be known, but it’s not being afraid to talk about it.” he said.
“Your view of the world becomes skewed. It’s kind of like you look through these windows and it’s a clear sunny day but all of a sudden something happens and things start to get a little cloudy.”
Brown was the public face of the force during and after the ordeal, holding news conferences broadcast live across the country, and giving an emotional speech during the funeral with tears streaming down his face.
He says counseling has helped him heal, and openly talking about his own battles has helped to lift the fog of loss. The families of the fallen are always in his heart, and will be especially so on Saturday, when the monument in their honour will be revealed.
“I wanted to see a monument though a closure and actually being unveiled,” Brown said.
After that, he says working on his boat will be a welcome distraction.
“It’s therapy when you are doing it right,” he said, adding that returning to the water will be a healing experience.
Still, letting go of the badge and his identify as an officer he says won’t be easy. He’ll lean on his family and brother for support.
The Newfoundland boys, with boating in their blood are as thick as thieves.
“Water — just being on the water is just so peaceful,” Wayne said.
That’s why Brown named his boat after the Newfoundland song “Saltwater Joys”
“It was about relinquishing a busy lifestyle for one of simplicity.”
Career saw many tragic events
Brown says he’s normally a happy, upbeat person, but he was tested by three years in New Brunswick that were marked by other tragic, high-profile events.
In the first few months after he arrived, an escaped python killed two young boys in Campbellton. Then a series of shale gas protests culminated in a violent demonstration in Rexton during which 40 people were arrested and six police vehicles burned.
He also presided over the case of Cpl. Ron Francis, an RCMP officer who took his own life in 2014 following a struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, and the debate over using marijuana for treatment.
A five-month 16×9 investigation, Under Fire, raised questions about officer training and equipment prior to the shooting. Click on the links below for related coverage.
- Under Fire: Search for answers
- Under Fire: The carbine
- Training for a shooting
- RCMP sends out defensive internal memo hours before explosive 16×9 investigation
- What’s happened in the year since the Moncton shooting
WATCH: 16×9’s investigation “Under Fire”
*With files from The Canadian Press