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“We must learn from this tragedy”: Moncton shooting review


January 26, 2015
By Lindsey Patten

A recently released report on what has come to be described as the Moncton incident has given every police agency in Canada much food for thought.

All was quiet in Moncton on June 4, 2014 until Justin Bourque was spotted walking down the street wearing camouflaged clothing and carrying two weapons. Police responded. What happened next transformed a community – and the RCMP.

The first 911 call came in at 7:18 pm. By 7:47 pm, Cst. Fabrice Gevaudan was dead. Two minutes later, Constable Dave Ross encountered the shooter and also lost his life. Constables Eric Dubois and Darlene Goguen were shot and wounded at about 7:54 and Cst. Doug Larche was shot and killed at 8:07 pm.

The manhunt was on and members realized that, as officers of the law, they were being specifically targeted by the suspect. Without knowing his location, it was impossible to have a definitive perimeter and therefore all policing activities were extremely high-risk.

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Finally on the evening of June 5, a caller reported Bourque’s exact location. Officers closed in and arrested him without further incident. The 29 hours between the first 911 call and the arrest irrevocably changed the lives of police and the community.

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson appointed A/Comm Alphonse MacNeil (ret’d) on June 30 to conduct an independent review of the circumstances surrounding the shooting. The report, released Jan. 16, offers 64 recommendations, including calls for improved communications and training.

{Training and equipment}

The report recommends that front line supervisors be trained to better manage a critical incident until a critical incident commander can take over. It also notes that officers need to be taught the difference between cover and concealment and the penetrative capabilities of bullets from various firearms.

Other recommendations include:

  • Reviewing policies and practices to ensure members are not constrained from improving their firearms proficiency
  • Developing a better system for members to obtain practice ammunition
  • Adding a physical component, tactical repositioning and scenario-based dynamic training to firearms instruction, including instruction on capability beyond qualification distances
  • Specific training for non-ERT personnel to drive tactical assault vehicles (TAV) to free ERT members for their primary duties

The report also addresses equipment, noting that the RCMP must immediately deploy patrol carbines. Shotguns should have slings for safety and all firearms should be stored with enough ammunition for sudden in-field deployment. TAVs should be shipped by rail or truck when being sent long distances.

Other recommendations include:

  • Developing a standard list of equipment needed for ERT duties and distributing it to all teams
  • Conducting an analysis of the approval and procurement processes relating to equipment that impacts officer safety
  • Brief members on the best deployment of hard body armour
  • Assigning appropriately trained special services personnel to command posts as liaisons

By improving both training and equipment, officer safety is increased, regardless of what situation they may encounter, the report notes.

{Communications}

Smooth and timely communications between members is vital to the success of any operation. The report recommends that a supervisor clearly provide direction to members about use of equipment during high stress or high risk incidents. This was shown most clearly in the report’s discussion on officer use, or lack thereof, of hard body armour.

MacNeil recommends that all members carry a cell or satellite phone in addition to their police radio while on duty and calls for the development of a radio that can display a map showing all provincial detachments and a list of radio channels used in each area.

Other recommendations include:

  • Using plain language as an alternative to 10-codes. The report notes members avoided using plain language because of a desire to avoid broadcasting details to the public. Residents were avidly monitoring police transmissions and routinely posting them to a news chasing group on social media. The report suggests that the RCMP implement encrypted radio systems to ensure operational effectiveness, officer safety and protection of privacy.

  • Developing a radio and data system which allows Maritime RCMP members to communicate when required to work outside their home areas. MacNeil also recommends the ERT develop a quick reference guide for non-members for things such as radio protocols.

  • Having a spokesperson at news conferences to present the operational perspective of the incident to assure the public that police are taking action.

  • Current software and technology solutions for police to monitor social media. Real-time social media monitoring helps identify operational risks and informs a communications strategy. To this end, communications personnel must be given up to date, functional and portable devices that let them effectively do their job.

{Officer and family support}

Members involved in a critical incident must be offered help if they need it. The report states that critical incident stress management (CISM) team should consist of experienced psychologists who understand policing, peer support personnel and RCMP chaplains and nurses trained in CISM. A plan should be developed for follow up at specified periods during the first year. Psychologists should interview members before they return to duty to prepare them for changes in the work environment caused by the traumatic event.

Member’s families also need support and need to be made aware that communications assistance is available to them to act as a buffer from the media. MacNeil recommends a review of aftercare services available to families, municipal employees, auxiliary constables and volunteers.

Other recommendations include:

  • Ending automated messages to families of dead officers relating to the cancellation of certain benefits. The report found this process lacks sensitivity and causes families undue stress.

  • Giving families a liaison to assist in the substantial amount of paperwork and procedural processes they must undertake.

  • Removing the burden insufficient funding places on member’s families. The report notes that when a member dies, spouses and children cannot access their insurance and must rely on private insurance coverage. This coverage often only reimburses the cost of five to seven hours of psychological services per year.


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