Winnipeg police officers are "shocked and stunned" by the killing of three RCMP members in Moncton, N.B., where the Mounties are still conducting a manhunt for the shooter.

"I can't begin to express how terrible I feel for those officers and for their families. It's just incredibly, incredibly tragic," said Mike Sutherland, president of the Winnipeg Police Association.

rcmp flowers

Flowers at a monument outside RCMP D Division in Winnipeg to remember the officers killed and wounded in a shooting in Moncton, N.B. The card reads "With deepest sympathy from a retired RCMP member and family." (Holly Caruk/CBC)

"I'm shocked and stunned. My colleagues, my family, are shocked and stunned. Our hearts go out to the families. Those RCMP officers — the lives of those families — are just going to be completely shattered."

In honour of the fallen officers, flags at all Winnipeg police stations have been lowered to half-mast.

Asked whether his officers are properly equipped when heading into situations such as the one in Moncton, Sutherland said that's a tough call.

Officers wear Kevlar vests but those are no longer guaranteed protection. With the high-powered rifles that are out there, the vests are bullet resistant rather than completely bullet proof, he said.

And it's not feasible for patrol officers to wear the armour plating that members of the tactical unit wear, he added. That gear is bulky and uncomfortable for other officers to do what they have to do over the course of a shift.

After 27 years, tragedies such as this remind him how inherently dangerous policing can be.

Winnipeg Police spokesman Const. Eric Hofley said the shooting has had a big impact on Winnipeg officers. 

"It's beyond belief," he said. "It's shaken our members quite deeply."

Hofley said it's brought back memories of three Winnipeg police officers who were shot in 2006 executing a drug warrant.

The 2006 shooting prompted the creation of the Tactical Response Unit, which specializes in situations considered higher risk, or where weapons are present and an increased risk of violence.

Hofley said officers know they have to be prepared for the worst. 

"To mentally be prepared for this type of thing is very difficult," he said. "It is something officers have to think about, unfortunately, to keep themselves ready so that should they find themselves in this type of incident that they act appropriately keep themselves and everyone else involved safe."

Sutherland said even with the best training, police are often at a disadvantage.

"Police are reactive," he said. "And when you're reacting sometimes, you have a significant tactical disadvantage and this individual [in Moncton] took full advantage, cowardly advantage [of that]."

Sutherland said police across Canada will be affected by the Moncton shootings.

"I don't think there is a law enforcement [agency] in this country who isn't probably hugging his or her children or his or her loved ones a little longer and a little extra hard before going to work this morning," he said. 

He said the funerals for the dead officers will be especially tough. 

"I've attended police funerals," he said. "It's probably the saddest moments of my life to see the looks on the faces of those left behind when members have been killed in the line of duty."

On Thursday, Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger, who is in Normandy, France, for D-Day anniversary celebrations, released the following statement about the Moncton shooting:

Manitobans are grieving at the senseless murders of three RCMP officers in Moncton yesterday.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the fallen officers and our hopes for a swift recovery are with the two officers who were wounded in the line of duty. This is a stark reminder of the risks taken by law enforcement officers on a daily basis, as well as the commitment and sacrifices made by the RCMP and their families. I would like to commend the efforts of the RCMP and first responders who are responsible for protecting the citizens of Moncton in what must have been, and continues to be, an unimaginably stressful situation. We stand with our fellow Canadians to offer our support and our deepest sympathies to our friends in New Brunswick during this extremely difficult time.