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RCMP rolls out 2,000 bulletproof vests after Mayerthorpe Mountie killings

The RCMP is ramping up distribution of better bulletproof vests to front-line officers – six years after four Mounties were gunned down near Mayerthorpe, Alta.

Some 2,000 sets of hard body armour are to be delivered to RCMP detachments across Canada this fall.

"The new hard body armour meets the protection requirements for general duty members, as well as the officer safety recommendations from the Mayerthorpe incident," reads an internal RCMP memo obtained by CHED radio.

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It says the RCMP hopes to issue more than 6,800 of the new vests before April 1, 2013.

The first batch was distributed earlier this year, including to the Mayerthorpe detachment.

The memo says the protection is to be worn by officers who are exposed or expect to be exposed to firearms than can penetrate soft body armour.

Constables Anthony Gordon, Leo Johnston, Brock Myrol and Peter Schiemann died on March 3, 2005, after being shot with high-powered bullets from a semi-automatic military assault rifle.

Gunman James Roszko later shot himself after being wounded by another Mountie.

RCMP say the new body armour meets the leading industry standard for North American military and law enforcement personnel and was chosen based on feedback from officers who tested it in the field.

Last March, a fatality inquiry before Alberta provincial court Judge Daniel Pahl into the Mayerthorpe killings strongly endorsed development and of better body armour. But Judge Pahl did not make it a formal recommendation in his final report.

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During the inquiry, Mr. Johnston's mother, Grace Johnston, testified that she believed officers need better body armour.

But RCMP Senior Deputy Commissioner Rod Knecht told the inquiry that no single measure can protect Mounties from harm.

Mr. Knecht, who is now chief of the Edmonton Police Service, testified that hard body armour is not operationally practical. He said it would be difficult for Mounties to wear during routine patrols because it is extremely uncomfortable and what officers gain in protection they lose in flexibility and agility.

The RCMP memo suggests it will be up to individual Mounties to decide whether to wear the new vests.

"A member's ongoing risk/threat assessment prior to and during an incident will determine whether hard body armour should be worn," the memo reads.

"Such incidents would typically include those involving firearms or other high-risk situations."

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