RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson has taken the rare step of launching an expedited internal review into the Moncton shooting deaths of three officers, including whether local Mounties had the necessary equipment to counter a heavily armed gunman.
The review will be broad and far-reaching, examining everything from whether the shooter's actions could have reasonably been foreseen to issues around training and equipment. The latter is sensitive, since fresh questions have emerged about whether the Codiac Mounties had access to carbines, a type of high-powered patrol gun recommended after the 2005 deaths of four Mounties in Mayerthorpe, Alta.
In a June 25 internal e-mail announcing the probe, Commissioner Paulson said his understanding is that the New Brunswick division was in the "early days" of rolling out the carbine – that four Codiac members had been trained in using the weapon, and that all six of the detachment's carbines were "otherwise deployed in training and therefore unavailable." The Codiac detachment has 141 officers.
"We – the RCMP – must objectively examine our response and preparation for this type of event," Commissioner Paulson wrote.
The June 4 shootings terrorized locals and made headlines around the world. The deaths of Constables Douglas Larche, Fabrice Gévaudan and Dave Ross, and the wounding of Constables Darlene Goguen and Eric Dubois, have left many wondering if anything could have been done differently. This review is meant to answer that very question.
The RCMP and the federal Labour Department have already launched longer-term probes that could take upward of two years, in part because of the ongoing criminal proceedings. But Commissioner Paulson said this latest probe, which is expected to conclude within a few months, will not interfere with the trial or investigation and could help prevent similar tragedies.
"Clearly the death of our three members in the course of duty and the near deaths of others demand that we seek to fully understand the facts, learn from them and if required, change our practices promptly," Commissioner Paulson wrote to RCMP members. "The safety and security of our members demand it."
Staff Sergeant Abe Townsend, the head of the Staff Relations Representative Program (SRR), an elected body for more than 22,000 RCMP members, called the review "rare," noting such a probe wasn't launched following the Mayerthorpe murders. "It's seldom done, if ever, in an incident like this," Staff Sgt. Townsend said, adding he understands the review, which will be headed by recently retired assistant commissioner Phonse MacNeil, will conclude within 90 days.
In his June 25 e-mail, which was posted to the RCMP website Thursday, Commissioner Paulson addressed some of the speculation around what kind of equipment the Codiac officers had when they responded to reports of a man carrying a high-powered rifle. He said each car that responded to the shooting had hard body armour in it, though he noted his information had yet to be confirmed. Staff Sgt. Townsend said he raised concerns with Commissioner Paulson about his characterization of the hard body armour situation, since some of the responding officers were driving unmarked cars instead of patrol cars.
Commissioner Paulson, in turn, clarified his June 25 e-mail, saying all responding patrol vehicles and traffic cars, except three, had one set of hard body armour. He added that 132 additional hard body armour sets were flown into Moncton given the influx of officers helping with the manhunt.
The accused, Justin Bourque, appeared in provincial court Thursday, where his lawyer asked for a psychological assessment – a request supported by Mr. Bourque's father. The 24-year-old will appear before a judge again on July 31, when the court will hear whether he was psychologically sound at the time of the shooting and whether he's fit to stand trial now.