MONCTON, N.B. — A senior Mountie has refused to admit that front line officers who responded to a shooting rampage in Moncton, N.B., didn’t have the proper training or equipment to handle the heavy-armed gunman.
“I can’t admit that,” Deputy Commissioner Kevin Brosseau testified Tuesday at the RCMP’s Labour Code trial.
The RCMP is accused of failing to provide members and supervisors with the appropriate information, instruction, equipment and training in an active-shooter event.
Carbine rifles were not available to front line officers during Justin Bourque’s shooting rampage on June 4, 2014, and Crown witnesses have testified the high-powered weapons could have made a difference in the tragedy that killed three Mounties and wounded two others.
Brosseau said he worked on the carbine program for about a year beginning in January 2011 and that it was his highest concern at the time.
He said his team conducted research on which rifle should be chosen, how they would be deployed across the country and how to justify to the public arming front line officers with semi-automatic rifles.
Brosseau said he made several presentations about the progress of the carbine project to the RCMP’s senior executive committee that year, and said it was clear to him that acquiring carbines for front line officers was a high priority for the top brass.
“It had a very high priority for me and for the rest of the directorate… and needed to move forward with haste,” the defence witness told Judge Leslie Jackson in Moncton provincial court.
“Underlying it all, frankly, was the need to ensure and maximize officer and public safety.”
Carbines have a greater range and accuracy than the officers’ pistols, the trial has heard.
Under cross examination, Crown prosecutor Paul Adams noted the carbine program was about addressing an identified gap in the firearms capabilities of front line Mounties — and Brosseau agreed.
He then asked Brosseau: “Would you admit that responding members and supervisors were not appropriately equipped and trained to respond to the active shooter event incident on June 4, 2014?”
Brosseau refused to admit that, prompting Adams to grill him on that point.
He noted the witness had told the senior executive committee that carbines were needed for front line officers to deal with those types of situations. Adams asked if Brosseau was contradicting his own statements to the committee.
“Are you suggesting, nonetheless, they were properly equipped and trained?” said Adams of the Mounties who went up against Bourque’s semi-automatic rifle and shotgun, noting they did not have carbines.
Brosseau paused and replied: “I can’t admit that they weren’t. It was a horrible tragedy, no doubt. I don’t know that additional training or having a patrol carbine that day would have made a difference.”
Adams then said: “No, you’re not going to admit to anything, because admitting to that would be an admission of guilt.”
The C8 carbine was approved in September 2011.
Brosseau, who has a master’s degree in law from Harvard University, conceded under cross examination that he has had conversations with the RCMP’s lawyers about the force’s Labour Code trial and was briefed on the evidence presented thus far before taking the stand.
Later Tuesday, an expert on the militarization of police — which refers to the use of military equipment, tactics and culture by law enforcement — was called to the stand by the defence.
Dr. Peter Kraska, a professor at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Ky., said the phenomenon can have a number of unintended consequences, calling it “a slippery slope.”
“The prevailing logic would be that this would result in increased officer safety and public safety. I’m not saying that isn’t true. I’m just saying that in the U.S. experience, that hasn’t necessarily been the case,” Kraska said.
He noted “warrior” and “survival” training has taught officers in his country to shoot earlier, and that some officers are acting in a more aggressive way, which can potentially create volatile situations and erode public trust — the very people they serve.
He pointed to the fatal April 29 shooting of a 15-year-old boy by a Texas police officer, who fired his service rifle at a car full of teenagers as they drove past him to leave a party.
Police had responded to a call for underage drinking when they heard gunshots outside.
Kraska conceded under cross examination that his 30 years of research on the militarization of police examined U.S. police forces and not Canadians ones.
But he described the U.S. as a “cautionary tale.”
“(U.S.) police departments have moved down the militarization continuum and taken tangible steps that way, which have led to a host of unintended consequences. I’m in no way predicting that will be the case here in Canada,” said Kraska, who said he did not study the incident in Moncton.
“I do know that… arming (general duty officers) with carbines and military-grade armour is a significant step down the militarization continuum and my research has shown unequivocally it’s those kinds of changes that led to significant problems.”
Constables Fabrice Gevaudan, Dave Ross and Doug Larche were killed, while constables Eric Dubois and Darlene Goguen were wounded when Bourque targeted police officers in hopes of sparking an anti-government rebellion.
Bourque was sentenced to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 75 years after pleading guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.
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Aly Thomson, The Canadian Press