Judge con­victs RCMP, say­ing of­fi­cers ‘ill-pre­pared’

Harsh crit­i­cism lev­elled against po­lice force af­ter at­tack that left of­fi­cers out­manned

Waterloo Region Record - - CANADA - Aly Thom­son

MONC­TON, N.B. — RCMP of­fi­cers were caught out­gunned and “ill-pre­pared” to con­front a gun­man who tar­geted them on a warm sum­mer night in 2014, a judge ruled Fri­day as he con­victed the na­tional po­lice force of fail­ing to pro­vide its mem­bers with ad­e­quate use-of-force equip­ment and user train­ing.

Judge Leslie Jack­son was harshly crit­i­cal of how long it took the RCMP to equip its of­fi­cers with car­bine ri­fles ahead of the Monc­ton at­tack, which left three Moun­ties dead and two oth­ers in­jured.

Justin Bourque had tar­geted po­lice of­fi­cers in hopes of spark­ing an anti-govern­ment re­bel­lion.

“It is clear to me that the use-of-force equip­ment avail­able to those mem­bers on June 4, 2014, left them ill-pre­pared to en­gage an as­sailant armed with an au­to­matic ri­fle,” the judge said in his 64-page de­ci­sion.

Rank and file mem­bers told the Labour Code trial they were out­gunned by Bourque, who roamed a Monc­ton neigh­bour­hood and opened fired on of­fi­cers as peo­ple walked dogs and chil­dren played in yards nearby.

Con­sta­bles Fabrice Ge­vau­dan, Dave Ross and Doug Larche were killed, while con­sta­bles Eric Dubois and Dar­lene Goguen were in­jured in the shoot­ings.

The C8 car­bine ri­fle was a cen­tral fo­cus of the trial. The high-pow­ered weapons were not avail­able to gen­eral duty of­fi­cers at the time of the Monc­ton shoot­ings, and nu­mer­ous wit­nesses who tes­ti­fied said they could have made a dif­fer­ence.

Car­bine ri­fles were ap­proved for use in 2011, but their roll­out was de­layed sev­eral times. The judge noted that Alphonse MacNeil, a re­tired as­sis­tant RCMP com­mis­sioner who con­ducted a re­view of the shoot­ings for the force, stated dur­ing the trial that at the time of his re­view, he said the roll­out of the car­bine pro­gram should be ex­pe­dited.

“I agree with MacNeil’s con­clu­sion. The roll­out took too long, even al­low­ing for all the vari­ables and chal­lenges,” said Jack­son.

“A real con­cern for the health and safety of front-line mem­bers ... would have seen a roll­out of the pa­trol car­bine pri­or­i­tized and not left to the va­grancies of avail­able fund­ing.”

The judge also ac­cused RCMP lead­er­ship — who were unan­i­mous in say­ing of­fi­cers were ad­e­quately equipped — of stick­ing to “talk­ing points de­signed to be the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for their po­si­tion” dur­ing tes­ti­mony at the trial.

“Their opin­ion is based on their ob­ser­va­tions made from the com­fort and se­cu­rity of their of­fices; how­ever the view of the re­spond­ing of­fi­cers who were fac­ing im­mi­nent dan­ger that day is dif­fer­ent,” he said.

Pub­lic Safety Min­is­ter Ralph Goodale said Fri­day’s de­ci­sion “car­ries im­por­tant im­pli­ca­tions” and that the Trudeau govern­ment would be study­ing it care­fully.

“We need to make sure that the train­ing, the equip­ment and the sup­port ser­vices are there to put those of­fi­cers in the po­si­tion of do­ing the very best job they can to keep the com­mu­nity safe and at the same time, to keep them­selves safe,” said Goodale on Fri­day.

Jack­son found the Crown did not prove its case on two other Labour Code vi­o­la­tions, and is­sued a ju­di­cial stay on a fourth charge.

The wives of the three fallen of­fi­cers sat qui­etly in the packed Monc­ton court­room among Moun­ties in plain clothes and at least one trial wit­ness as the ver­dicts were read out dur­ing the brief hear­ing.

“I felt all along that if the RCMP mem­bers would have had the proper equip­ment that my hus­band would not have died and the fa­ther of my chil­dren would not have died,” Doug Larche’s wife, Na­dine, said out­side the court­house, across the road from a life-sized bronze mon­u­ment of her hus­band and the two other slain of­fi­cers.

“My hope re­ally is that the sil­ver lin­ing of all of this is that RCMP mem­bers that are serv­ing now and in the fu­ture will be bet­ter equipped and that they’ll be safer.”

An­gela Ge­vau­dan, wife of Fabrice, said she felt “vin­di­cated.” She said the RCMP’s de­ci­sion to fight the Labour Code charges had hurt the polic­ing com­mu­nity.

“It’s been very dis­heart­en­ing to have these charges chal­lenged in the first place,” she said. “I think it breaks the trust and I think the mem­bers are still very hurt and feel un­sup­ported and I think that needs to be ad­dressed.”

AN­DREW VAUGHAN, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

RCMP Cpl. Pat Bouchard, left, and An­gela Ge­vau­dan, wife of slain RCMP Const. Fabrice Ge­vau­dan in Monc­ton Fri­day. The RCMP has been con­victed of vi­o­lat­ing the Labour Code for fail­ing to pro­vide mem­bers with use-of-force equip­ment in con­nec­tion with the 2014 shoot­ing.

AN­DREW VAUGHAN, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Na­dine Larche, left, wife of Const. Doug Larche and Rachael Ross, wife of Const. Dave Ross, talk with re­porters.

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