New Brunswick

Moncton RCMP shooting: Mounties criticize carbine rollout 1 year after rampage

RCMP officers who raced to a New Brunswick neighbourhood under siege by Justin Bourque say the force has failed to supply them with recommended guns and training, months after a report urged the organization to do just that.

Review from retired assistant commissioner after shootings called for 64 recommendations

Three RCMP officers were killed and two others wounded in a shooting spree that paralyzed Moncton, N.B., in the summer of 2014. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

RCMP officers who raced to a New Brunswick neighbourhood under siege by Justin Bourque say the force has failed to supply them with recommended guns and training, months after a report urged the organization to do just that.

Some frontline officers who spoke to The Canadian Press on the condition that they remain anonymous because they are not allowed to speak publicly say they fear for their safety because most members still do not have carbine rifles or training on how to use them. A carbine is a short-barrelled rifle that has a longer accurate range than a sidearm or shotgun.

One RCMP officer who witnessed Bourque gun down a colleague last June 4 in Moncton says the organization has moved too slowly in rolling out the carbines and training.

Another member says officers feel they are outgunned and are increasingly bitter that repeated calls for better weaponry over the last decade haven't prompted a swift response from RCMP headquarters.

"A lot of the members are disappointed ... but they've got to the point of saying, 'Well you know what, that's the RCMP. They don't give a s—-t,"' said one long-serving member involved in the hunt for Bourque.

We knew we were going to a person that was shooting police officers with a high-powered rifle and we show up there with pellet guns basically.— New Brunswick officer involved in Bourque pursuit

"I don't expect to see much more change. ... When it comes to the carbine being put in the vehicles, they say it's going to happen but do I expect it? No, not for a few years."

He says only four people in his detachment of about 80 members have been trained on the Colt C8 carbine, a semi-automatic weapon that is highly regarded for its accuracy and long range, and has been used for years by Canadian municipal police forces.

The RCMP moved the first carbines out in 2013, with 2,200 now available for 12,000 members. Carbine training has stepped up since last year, but the force won't reveal how many officers have been trained.

In mid-May, the RCMP was charged with violating the Canada Labour Code.

Labour investigators allege the police force didn't provide appropriate weapons and equipment for "active shooter" incidents. They also say the force didn't give staff the training and information needed to respond to incidents like Bourque's, and that the RCMP didn't "in general" ensure health and safety of its members.

The matter will be heard in court for the first time on July 9.

'A key factor in the outcome'

The latest call for a faster roll-out of the carbines came in a review from retired assistant commissioner Alphonse MacNeil after Bourque fatally shot three RCMP officers and wounded two others with an assault rifle that overpowered the members' pistols and shotguns.

Justin Bourque received the longest sentence in Canadian history for the shootings — he’ll serve at least 75 years before he can apply for parole, at which point he’d be 99 years old. (Facebook)

MacNeil released 64 recommendations aimed at improving training, equipment, communications and planning during critical incidents, all of which were found to be deficient in the police response to the shootings.

The RCMP accepted the recommendations, but didn't set a clear deadline for when or how many officers would get the guns.

Still, members say the force has no excuse for the slow delivery of guns that were recommended in 2010 in an RCMP-commissioned report and again in 2011 following the deaths of four officers in Alberta in 2005. The force began researching carbines in 2006 as it developed a policy on required equipment.

One New Brunswick officer who rushed to the suburban neighbourhood in pursuit of Bourque insists that having a carbine would have given police a chance to stop him.

"We knew we were going to a person that was shooting police officers with a high-powered rifle and we show up there with pellet guns basically," said the officer, who is bound by a regulation to not criticize the force.

"Carbines on June 4 was without a doubt a key factor in the outcome. ... You clearly would have had some members that had a shot at Bourque as opposed to somebody who had a handgun who says, 'I won't be able to hit him or my bullet won't go that far.' "

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