B.C.’s public safety minister says the province will review how an emergency text alert was used Monday as police responded to an active shooter situation in Langley, B.C.
The text alert — and two subsequent follow ups — was just the second time police in B.C. have made use of the Alert Ready system; the first was during an incident in Vanderhoof in 2021 when a man opened fire at the local RCMP detachment.
While the first alert was issued at 6:20 a.m., after police had fatally engaged the suspect, Sgt. David Lee with the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team told media Monday it had been issued “at the appropriate time” when police were able to tie the events together.
The first alert Monday warned people of “multiple shooting scenes” in the Langley city centre area involving “transient victims,” and provided a suspect description. The second alert, issued shortly afterward, said the gunman was no longer a threat, but that police were still investigating if there were other suspects. A third and final alert issued late Monday afternoon said the situation had been resolved.
Speaking to media Monday afternoon, Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said police were working with the best information they had at the time.
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“The police were dealing with a very fluid and dynamic situation, they have learned lessons form what happened in Nova Scotia and in Vanderhoof,” Farnworth said.
“This is only the second time in the province that an active shooter alert has been used. So of course they will review how things were done and the way they were done.”
RCMP in Nova Scotia faced criticism for not issuing an emergency alert in 2020 during the shooting spree in which gunman Gabriel Wortman killed 22 people.
RCMP Chief Supt. Ghalib Bhayani said Monday’s alert was issued after police determined it met three key criteria.
Those criteria are the belief there is an active threat and risk of serious harm to the public, an unpredictable and rapidly evolving situation that could challenge police response, and sufficient information about the threat and its geographic area to be able to clearly communicate how the public can stay safe.
Numerous Lower Mainland residents took to social media to complain about the alert Monday, some simply to say it had woken them up, while others who don’t live in Langley said they didn’t understand why they had received it.
Bhayani said the decision to broadcast the alert to the wider Lower Mainland area was deliberate.
“The alert was specific to the geographic area where we thought there would be risk, where we assessed risk and risk to public safety,” he said.
“Some folks outside of Langley are calling and asking why did the alert come to us in Burnaby or other jurisdictions. People do drive into work in Langley in the morning, and the investigation was still ongoing. We were not completely satisfied that public safety — that we had that piece yet.”
Farnworth said a subsequent review would look at “how and why” the alert was issued, along with the the contents of the messages themselves.
British Columbia has been testing the Alert Ready mobile phone alert system for several years, and said in May that the system is being expanded to include floods and wildfires.