RCMP watchdog raps Mountie gun seizures from High River homes during 2013 flood

The RCMP watchdog says Mounties improperly took guns from flood-stricken homes in Alberta two years ago — seizures that angered High River residents and fostered mistrust of the national police force.

OTTAWA — The RCMP watchdog says Mounties improperly took guns from flood-stricken homes in Alberta two years ago — seizures that angered High River residents and fostered mistrust of the national police force.

In a report released Thursday, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission blamed the mistakes on poor leadership, lack of guidance, and failure to communicate with the public.

The RCMP had legal authority to forcibly enter evacuated homes during the natural disaster and even to seize loose firearms in plain view, the commission report says.

The Mounties say the guns could have posed a hazard, as there were reports of break-ins and thefts, and over 300 people — including one high-risk offender — refused to evacuate.

Under the Criminal Code, such seizures did not require a warrant, but officers failed to take the necessary next step of reporting their actions to a judge.

In addition, RCMP members exceeded their authority by seizing some guns that were properly secured or that were not “in plain view,” the commission found.

In all, 609 firearms were taken from 105 homes.

“While RCMP members, acting on their own initiative and with little guidance, may have acted with public safety in mind, they nonetheless failed to comply with legal requirements concerning the seizure of firearms,” the report said.

In June 2013, heavy rainfall caused the Highwood River to swell, uprooting trees and engulfing cars and homes. During the crisis, the RCMP, provincial and municipal police, the military, first responders and volunteers rescued some 800 people.

Overall, emergency personnel, including the Mounties, did “a remarkable job” in the initial days, the report said.

What should have been a story about heroic actions of many RCMP members during the devastating flood turned out to be “something far different” for the force, the commission noted.

The commission said RCMP leadership failed to adequately plan for communications with the public during the catastrophe, which prompted difficulties when word of the forced entries and seizures began circulating.

“What we found was that, all too often, social media filled the gap that the communications people were unable to fill,” commission chairman Ian McPhail said in an interview.

“And in some instances contradictory or incomplete information was communicated to the public.”

The report makes several recommendations, including creation of:

— a national crisis communications handbook;

— guidelines on seizure of firearms, ammunition and contraband during disasters;

— special forms to ensure better note-taking about forced entries.

The report confirmed that the federal government’s “grave concerns” over firearm seizures during the flood were justified, said Jason Tamming, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney.

“Some of the activities described in the report are completely unacceptable,” Tamming said. “Law-abiding Canadians should never be faced with unlawful searches and seizure of their personal property.”

The complaints commission will issue a final report once the RCMP responds.

In an initial statement Thursday, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson saluted members’ efforts during the disaster. “Our police officers — many directly affected by the devastation themselves — worked long, stressful and emotionally charged hours to keep their community safe.”

Paulson said the Mounties had begun reviewing the report, adding there is “always room for improvement.”

McPhail said he would be surprised if the recommendations are not accepted and implemented.

“They’re all doable. They don’t require huge expense,” he said. “They simply require a more focused attention to how to respond to natural disaster situations.”

Just Posted

Man accused of murder is back behind bars

Quentin Lee Strawberry charged with second-degree murder in April now charged with attempted murder

Red Deer man sentenced to 60 days for assaulting girlfriend’s father

Linden Buffalo was convicted of aggravated assault in May

Two people die in Highway 11 crash

RCMP continue to investigate

Aboriginal developer won’t pay for a Lacombe County permit, is contemplating a Supreme Court fight

A judge refuses Joseph Fromhold’s late request to appeal a ‘cease operations’ order

Your community calendar

Tuesday The Central Alberta Council on Aging will hold its Christmas General… Continue reading

MAP: Red Deer Open Houses for Dec. 7-8

Plan your open house viewings with the attached map of listings in… Continue reading

Edmonton’s Chuba Hubbard named Big 12 top offensive player

IRVING, Texas — Edmonton native Chuba Hubbard, the NCAA rushing leader, has… Continue reading

It’s official: Calgary signs deal with Flames and Stampede for new arena

CALGARY — A deal to build a new arena in downtown Calgary… Continue reading

Don’t blame PM. It’s about time leaders made fun of Trump

Did you hear the one about the world leader behaving badly at… Continue reading

NASCAR goes back to its roots with a huge Nashville blowout

NASHVILLE — Kyle Busch toted his championship trophy all over Nashville for… Continue reading

Alphonso Davies, Ashley Lawrence named Canada Soccer Players of the Month

TORONTO — Alphonso Davies and Ashley Lawrence have been named Canada Soccer… Continue reading

Much anticipated Star Wars-based ride debuts at Disney World

ORLANDO, Fla. — The resistance is rising. “Rise of the Resistance,” the… Continue reading

Most Read