New Brunswick

Justin Bourque shooting response by RCMP plagued by communication gaps

The head of the RCMP in New Brunswick expects an internal review of the June 4 Moncton shootings will zero in on the difficulty first responders had communicating with one another as Justin Bourque gunned down five officers.

Assistant Commissioner Roger Brown says RCMP report on Moncton shooting expected within weeks

Communication problems between the RCMP, police officers from other jurisdictions and other first responders on the night of Justin Bourque's shooting rampage in Moncton will likely be highlighted by an internal review, according to the head of the RCMP in New Brunswick.

RCMP Assistant Commissioner Roger Brown says he plans to work on fixing the communication problems that arose during the June 4 Moncton shootings. (CBC)
Assistant Commissioner Roger Brown said in an interview on Monday he believes the report will address some of the communication problems that arose as Bourque wandered through a north-end neighbourhood on June 4, dressed in camouflage and gunning down officers with a high-powered weapon.

It's "the first thing that needs to be zeroed in on," he said.

The case escalated from a simple gun complaint to a deadly shooting and two-day manhunt that involved hundreds of police officers from across the country and saw much of the southeastern New Brunswick city locked down.

This is one [problem] that we absolutely have to get fixed, not just here, but across Canada.—Roger Brown, RCMP assistant commissioner 

"We had police officers from different provinces — from Nova Scotia, P.E.I. —  that came here, that are on a different radio system, [who] couldn’t communicate with each other," said Brown.

Ambulance crews couldn't communicate with police, and paramedics could not respond to the fallen officers because the area had been categorized as a kill zone, he said.

"This is one that we absolutely have to get fixed, not just here, but across Canada."
Justin Bourque, 24, was sentenced to five life sentences, with no chance of parole for 75 years, for the fatal shooting of three RCMP officers and wounding of two others. (Facebook)

Brown said he would be "very surprised" if the issue isn't dealt with in the report. "If it isn’t, I’m still going to work on it, because it’s something that I know I need to do," he said.

The commissioner said he expects the report will be made public within weeks.

"It's my understanding the report is in its final draft stages," said Brown.

"The commissioner made mention last week that in the coming weeks he will release that report. In a case like this, what I'm anticipating, what I'm hoping for, is a very critical look at the incident, exactly what can we learn from it."

Every police call potentially serious

Last July, the RCMP announced that retired assistant commissioner Phonse MacNeil, the former commanding officer of H Division in Nova Scotia, would lead the internal review of the shooting deaths in Moncton.

At the time, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said all facets of the June 4 shootings in Moncton "need to be understood."

Bourque was sentenced last Friday to life in prison with no chance of parole for 75 years for killing three RCMP officers and wounding two others in the shootings.

It is the longest sentence in Canadian history.

Bourque, 24, of Moncton, previously pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.

Brown said there's still much to learn in the wake of the shootings, but the case has served as a reminder to all first responders that every call has the potential to be life-threatening.

"One of our biggest enemies in police work is complacency, not looking at the overall danger and saying, 'Oh, this is just another hunter going in the woods, or someone going paint-balling, or whatever the case might be.

"But I think certainly this reminds us that every single call has the potential to go from a basic call to one that is extremely dangerous in a matter of seconds."