tp-mayerthorpe

Police investigate the Quonset on James Roszko's property in Alberta where four Mounties were killed in March 2005. ((CBC))

A top-ranking RCMP officer told an Alberta inquiry Tuesday he is satisfied that the officers who were ambushed and killed by gunman James Roszko near Mayerthorpe in 2005 were properly trained to handle the incident.

The four officers were very well trained for the circumstances, said Senior Deputy Commissioner Rod Knecht, who was the officer in charge of criminal operations for northern Alberta at the time of the shooting.

The scenario of a perpetrator returning to the scene to attack officers had never happened before, he told the fatality inquiry looking into the deaths of the four officers.

Roszko gunned down RCMP constables Anthony Gordon, Leo Johnston, Brock Myrol and Peter Schiemann on March 3, 2005, before killing himself.

Deputy commissioner chokes up

The inquiry at the courthouse in Stony Plain is looking into the events leading up to Roszko's ambush of the Mounties on his farm to learn how similar tragedies can be prevented.

tp-edm-knecht

Senior Deputy Commissioner Rod Knecht of the RCMP walks past media outside the Stony Plain courthouse. ((CBC))

Knecht, now based in Ottawa, oversaw the internal RCMP investigation of what happened that day.

At one point while talking about the investigation, Knecht became choked up and had to pause on the stand.

While completing one of the reports, investigators did not talk to members from the Mayerthorpe detachment, he said.

"It was a very difficult time for those members," he said through tears. 

Crime scenes guarded at all times

There is no national police policy on how security at a crime scene should be maintained, other than the scene remains guarded at all times, Knecht said. 

The attack, however, prompted changes in RCMP procedures.

On the witness stand, Knecht reviewed the recommendations that came out of an internal RCMP report.

At the time of the killings, all armoured police vehicles were located in Ottawa, but since then, some have been moved to B.C., while Alberta expects to get the vehicles next year.

Since the shooting, every officer operating a police car must have a bulletproof vest and plainclothes officers must have immediate access to their gear.

Mayerthorpe now has body armour

The Mayerthorpe detachment now has hard body armour, he said. The gear is being distributed across all RCMP detachments, based on risk assessments.

However, the gear is not a complete solution as it is too uncomfortable and too confining to wear on patrol, he said. It's also expensive and hard to get.

Recruits at the RCMP depot in Regina now receive training to deal with the type of situation that arose in Mayerthorpe.

They do firearms exercises in a simulator where the suspects shoot back. They also run through scenarios specifically focusing on farm and grow-op investigations, complete with farm buildings and a Quonset hut.

K Division, responsible for northern Alberta, has implemented a behavioural sciences unit which performs risk assessments for crime scenes, said Knecht. The unit will also assemble files on people seen as potentially violent.

The inquiry will wrap up with final submissions on Friday.

The judge may make recommendations to prevent similar occurrences but is prohibited, under the act, from making findings of legal responsibility.

Public hearings held under the Alberta Fatality Inquiries Act are limited to establishing the cause, manner, time, place and circumstances of death, as well as the identity of the deceased.

With files from Briar Stewart and James Hees