The Moncton, N.B., Mounties killed by a heavily armed gunman earlier this month did not have bulletproof vests to protect them against high-powered rifles, as recommended by a federal review seven years ago, says the spokesman for the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada.
Ceramic-plated ballistic vests had to be flown into the southeastern New Brunswick city from Ottawa, Rob Creasser told CBC News.
In addition, the three Moncton RCMP members who died in the June 4 shootings and two who were wounded did not have Colt C8 patrol carbines, the high-powered, mid-sized rifles recommended by an inquiry into the 2005 deaths of four RCMP officers near Mayerthorpe, Alta., he said.
Instead, they had 9-mm handguns — "not an adequate response" to an active shooter, said Creasser, a retired RCMP officer.
Three Moncton RCMP constables were killed and two others were wounded in the shootings June 4.
"Who knows whether it would have made a difference if they had responded and they had the high-calibre weaponry in their vehicle, or they had ballistic vests," said Creasser, whose group represents about 2,000 of the estimated 18,000 Mounties across Canada.
Still, he says, it's "troubling" and "sad" that seven years after a review of the Mayerthorpe deaths — the single largest loss of life in the RCMP's history — many officers still don't have the upgraded hard-shell body armour and the RCMP is only beginning the process of training officers to use Colt C8 patrol carbines.
'Many officers I’ve spoken with have gone out and paid for their own equipment.' - Rob Creasser, Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada
"Many officers I’ve spoken with have gone out and paid for their own equipment — for their own new ballistic body armour — because at the end of the day, if they’re going to wait for the RCMP to properly equip them, it’s their lives and they want to go home at the end of the day," said Creasser. "So they are paying money out of pocket to protect themselves."
Four RCMP constables in the northern Alberta town of Mayerthorpe were killed on March 3, 2005, when they were guarding a marijuana grow-op and cache of stolen car parts they had found inside a farm's Quonset hut, and the owner returned and began firing on them with a high-powered hunting rifle. The gunman, James Roszko, later killed himself.
Paulson says RCMP have 'access' to proper tools
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson has said what happened in Moncton is tragic, but not another Mayerthorpe.
He said the recommendations that came out of the Human Resources Skills Development Canada report in 2007 and inquiry in 2011 brought important changes.
"We've implemented them all, we have hard body armour, we have the weapons that we need. You know, we've revised all our policies. How do you guard against a monster like this?"
Paulson said his members have access to the tools they need.
"Define 'access,'" argued Creasser.
"In the case of Moncton, the first day when the original complaint came in, all the media shots of members that I saw, were only wearing soft body armour and carrying their 9-mm handguns," he said.
"It was during the manhunt that I saw the upgraded ballistic armour with the plates in it show up. And what I’ve been told from a member that was involved in the manhunt, those were flown in from Ottawa. And as soon as the manhunt was over, they were flown back to Ottawa.
"So access, yes. Ready access, absolutely not," he said.
"In order for the equipment to be effective, it has to be available. And flying it in from out of province doesn't fit the bill."
Creasser suggests funding is the issue. The new equipment would be covered by the various detachment budgets, he said.
"So for example, if I was working at the Moncton detachment and I was told I should have five carbine weapons in the detachment available for members to use and I can only afford three, then I’m only going to get three."
On June 4, three RCMP were shot and killed:
- Const. Douglas James Larche, 40, from Saint John.
- Const. Dave Joseph Ross, 32, from Victoriaville, Que.
- Const. Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, 45, originally from Boulogne-Billancourt, France.
Constables Éric Stéphane J. Dubois and Marie Darlene Goguen were wounded.
Justin Bourque, 24, of Moncton, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder in connection with the shootings.
He is scheduled to return to court on July 3.
The investigation is ongoing and complex, RCMP said on Twitter.
"While there are media reports offering opinion from those convinced they have the answers, it remains early in the investigation," the tweet said.
"The RCMP must deal with facts and evidence, not opinion, in order to determine what happened."