A review exploring the RCMP response to Justin Bourque's deadly shooting spree in June in New Brunswick calls for the force to take immediate action to better arm Mounties — one of 64 recommendations that have all been accepted by the RCMP.
The 180-page report, led by retired assistant commissioner Alphonse MacNeil, was released in Moncton on Friday morning, with nine pages redacted for officer safety, including details about the amount of equipment officers have.
The report urges the RCMP to expedite the deployment of patrol carbines across the force, including improved training.
'The time it took to roll out the carbine project, including the training and delivery of the weapons to members of the RCMP, has taken far too long.' - Alphonse MacNeil, retired assistant commissioner
A carbine is a short-barrelled rifle that has a longer accurate range than a sidearm or shotgun.
MacNeil's report says officers were outgunned during the incident, having to rely on shotguns and pistols, while Bourque was armed with a high-powered rifle.
Patrol carbines would have made a difference at several key stages of the shooting that claimed the lives of three Mounties, he said.
"Many … members stated … had the patrol carbine been available, it would have made a positive difference in this incident."
Officers told MacNeil there were sightings of Bourque during the incident at distances of 100 metres and they felt he could have been reached with a carbine. Bourque is now serving a life sentence after entering guilty pleas.
Issuing carbines was a key recommendation in 2011, following the 2005 tragedy in Mayerthorpe, Alta., when four officers were killed.
"The time it took to roll out the carbine project, including the training and delivery of the weapons to members of the RCMP, has taken far too long," MacNeil said in his report.
The carbine procurement process was underway in March 2011, he said. But delivery of the weapons across the country did not begin until the fall of 2012.
N.B. Mounties among last to get carbines
Assistant Commissioner Roger Brown said Friday New Brunswick RCMP were among the last to receive carbines.
"J Division or New Brunswick were certainly not first when it came to the [carbine] roll out, absolutely not," he said. "As a matter of fact, I would suggest … we were probably on the lower end of the roll out numbers."
The Codiac Regional RCMP detachment did have some patrol carbines during the June 4 shootings, according to the report. But no regular Moncton members were trained in their use. Members were in Gagetown being trained on the guns at time of shootings.
Still, Brown isn't convinced having carbines would have made a difference.
"I cannot say that there's anything in that report that I've read, and I've read it several times, that says this piece of equipment would have done that, or carbines would have done this, or carbines were a result of — that's not there,” he said.
The number of officers in Moncton who are now equipped with carbines is among the redacted information in the report.
But nationally, as recently as October, there were frontline members who still did not have access to carbines or training, MacNeil said.
Killed by Bourque were constables Douglas James Larche, 40, Dave Joseph Ross, 32, and Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, 45. Constables Éric Stéphane J. Dubois and Marie Darlene Goguen were wounded.
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The review found none of the uniformed officers who responded in the early stages of the incident was wearing hard body armour, even though the RCMP had pledged following the 2011 Mayerthorpe inquiry to have body armour (HBA) distributed across the country by March 2012.
Goguen, who was wounded, said she would have put her HBA on had she been given better information.
Another officer reported not having enough time to return to the office to get HBA.
Meanwhile, one officer opted to go without HBA so that her colleague, who had children, could have the protection, the review found.
Deputy Commissioner Janice Armstrong described the HBA choice between the members as "heartbreaking."
But MacNeil concluded hard body armour would not have saved lives or reduced the severity of the wounds in the Moncton shootings.
'We must learn from this tragedy. It is our duty to make sure all RCMP employees on the front lines are as prepared as possible to meet the threats we face every day.' - Janice Armstrong, deputy commissioner
The RCMP has already initiated a number of actions to respond to the recommendations, and has committed to publicly report on the implementation status of all of them within one year, officials said on Friday.
"We must learn from this tragedy. It is our duty to make sure all RCMP employees on the front lines are as prepared as possible to meet the threats we face every day," said the deputy commissioner.
"Modern policing is a constantly changing environment that requires us to be equally as dynamic in our response. Mr. MacNeil’s review has highlighted where those changes are needed and we are committed to their implementation," she said.
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Assistant Commissioner Roger Brown says the force has already stepped up training.
"If I look at the training for the carbine rifle, for example, on June 4 to today, there's no comparison. There were two members trained on that evening. Today, I have 120 in the province," he said.
The widows of the slain officers welcomed the report.
Angela Gevaudan spoke to reporters briefly, on behalf of widows Rachael Ross and Nadine Larche, following the news conference on Friday.
Gevaudan said she was originally skeptical of the report, being done by a retired assistant commissioner.
But she now agrees wholeheartedly with MacNeil's recommendations, she said. The report could be instrumental in keeping officers safe and the recommendations should be implemented as soon as possible, she said.
"Why wait for another crisis?"
The report addresses everything from equipment, to training and communications during the incident, news conferences, family support and funerals.
MacNeil grouped the recommendations under five themes:
- Communications and aftercare.
MacNeil says in the report that he encountered "unforeseen challenges" completing the review.
"The time allotted did limit the depths to which some issues could be explored," he said.
Bourque's statement to police was analyzed as part of the review, but as the judicial process was underway, Bourque was not interviewed, said MacNeil.
"This limited our ability to ask him key questions that could have provided greater insight into his actions and his background."
Three members of the Codiac RCMP detachment were killed and two others wounded on June 4, gunned down by 24-year-old Bourque with a high-powered firearm as he roamed a Moncton neighbourhood.
After the shootings, questions quickly surfaced about whether the RCMP were adequately armed to deal with someone as heavily armed as Bourque, who used an M305 .308 semiautomatic rifle and a Mossberg 500 12-gauge shotgun.
Availability of ammunition a problem
The report details challenges RCMP members faced on the evening of June 4. It describes the response as chaotic and hectic.
The command structure was confused as police searched for Bourque, who was arrested 28 hours after the shootings, it states. Officers didn't know what to do and supervisors were overwhelmed.
At the time of the initial call, no shotguns or rifles were deployed to Codiac RCMP members.
"Prior to this incident, it was uncommon for Codiac members to sign out shotguns at the start of their shifts," the report states.
The report also found problems with the availability of ammunition.
At 8:30 p.m. on June 4, an RCMP officer reported heading to the scene with the last available shotgun cartridges.
"One off-duty member offered to bring his scoped hunting rifle to the scene and did so," the report states.
It recommends long-barrelled weapons, when available, be kept in the police vehicles of officers who are trained to use them, and that firearms be stored with sufficient ammunition.
Other recommendations include:
- The officers have a cellphone and police radio while on duty.
- Annual night training be completed, including for air services.
- Infrared strobes be attached to tactical armoured vehicles.
- That a radio and data system be developed to allow RCMP members from all maritime divisions to communicate.
- That RCMP create policy to allow for use of plain language instead of 10-codes in urgent situations.
- Software be sought to properly monitor social media.
- That communications people have functional, portable devices to enable them to use social media.
- That RCMP consider broadening its support for initiatives to help young people with mental illness.
Bourque, now 25, pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. He was sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility of parole for 75 years, which is the longest period of parole ineligibility in Canadian history.