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Review of fatal RCMP shootings calls for better access to guns

RCMP officers responding to the fatal police shootings in Moncton last year faced a number of challenges that included communicating accurate information, accessing high-powered weaponry and securing hard body armour, says a review released Friday.

The report makes 64 recommendations that call for better access to shotguns and rifles, standard equipment for emergency response teams, improvements in radio communication and training to better prepare supervisors for critical incidents.

It highlighted a number of problems the Mounties faced when they were searching for Justin Bourque, who was arrested 28 hours after the June 4 shooting rampage began.

“Accurate risk assessments were difficult as members were calling for ambulances to multiple locations,” the 180-page report said.

“Sightings were being reported based on caller location (as opposed to suspect location), then broadcast out of order. There were wounded members in need of medical attention. … Based on the radio traffic, it would have been nearly impossible to form an accurate tactical view of the situation.”

While there were five RCMP tactical armoured vehicles deployed for emergency response team use, one tactical armoured vehicle from the Quebec RCMP was not deployed as it was in Montreal and not requested, the report said.

“The RCMP TAV was designed for this type of operation and, given the scale of this incident, having as many as possible was essential,” it said. “To mitigate the shortage of TAVs, commercial armoured trucks were put into use.”

One RCMP tactical armoured vehicle from Nova Scotia was dispatched but it broke down and a mechanic was sent to fix it. The report recommended tactical armoured vehicles travelling long distances should go by rail or flatbed truck.

Many RCMP officers did not know that hard body armour was available in vehicles while others were not familiar with how to wear the equipment properly, the report said.

“This all speaks to a general lack of knowledge and understanding with respect to how and when HBA must be worn,” the report said.

The RCMP should have also considered asking for the help of the military, given its specialized and unique capabilities and equipment, it added.

The RCMP said it accepts all of the review’s recommendations and has started implementing them.

“We must learn from this tragedy,” RCMP deputy commissioner Janice Armstrong said in a statement.

“It is our duty to make sure all RCMP employees on the front lines are as prepared as possible to meet the threats we face every day.”

In October, Bourque was sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 75 years after pleading guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.

Bourque, 25, admitted in a statement to police that he used a semi-automatic rifle to shoot the five officers in the city’s north end.

Afterwards, he fled into the woods near a suburban neighbourhood, where he was later arrested.

Bourque killed constables Dave Ross, Fabrice Gevaudan and Doug Larche. Constables Eric Dubois and Darlene Goguen were injured.

The Mounted Police Professional Association was critical of the RCMP last year after the Moncton shootings because it said many detachments still didn’t have the high-powered rifles or specialized armour that is better able to protect against rifle fire, particularly after the deaths of four RCMP officers near Mayerthorpe, Alta., in 2005.

The shooting deaths led to recommendations that police be equipped with proper protective vests and carbines.

The officers in Alberta were guarding a marijuana growing operation when the owner opened fire on them with a rifle, leaving them to defend themselves with 9-mm handguns.