OTTAWA - In the aftermath of the fatal shootings of three RCMP officers last month in Moncton, N.B., the country's top Mountie is promising a full review into the equipment and training his officers are given.
Commissioner Bob Paulson says he has appointed retired assistant commissioner Phonse MacNeil to lead a comprehensive internal review into what happened in Moncton on June 4, where three officers were gunned down and two others injured before a 30-hour manhunt that ended with the arrest of a suspect.
"All facets of this event need to be understood," Paulson said in a statement posted on the RCMP website Thursday that included additional information to an internal email he sent to members of the department June 25.
"Clearly the death of our three members in the course of duty and the near deaths of many others demand that we seek to fully understand the facts, learn from them and if required, change our practices promptly."
The RCMP has faced criticism from Rob Creaser of the Mounted Police Professional Association about the equipment and training its officers receive.
Creaser has said many detachments don't have high-powered rifles or specialized armour that is better able to protect against rifle fire.
He also said the RCMP hasn't acted quickly enough on recommendations made after the deaths of four officers in Mayerthorpe, Alta., in 2005. The officers in Alberta were guarding a marijuana grow-op when the owner opened fire on them with a rifle, leaving them to defend themselves with 9-mm handguns.
As a result of those shootings, it was recommended seven years ago that police be equipped with proper protective vests and the C8 carbines, a type of assault rifle used by military personnel and many police forces.
Paulson said in the Moncton-based Codiac detachment, all but three patrol vehicles and traffic cars had one set of hard body armour in them.
In his June 25 email to members of the force, Paulson wrote that each car responding to a report of an armed man in Moncton was equipped with hard body armour, but the updated statement on Thursday clarified what was in the email.
Paulson said on that night, 22 sets of hard body armour were assigned to various vehicles and three tactical troop members were assigned their own armour. An additional 132 sets of the armour were flown to Moncton, Paulson said, as they were "cognizant of the increased number of members involved in containing the suspect."
The RCMP commissioner said discussions so far about the hard body armour and the number of carbines available has been "a very superficial, easy and incomplete effort to look for explanations and orient blame for what has happened."
Paulson said the RCMP's division in New Brunswick was in "the early days" of deploying the C8 carbines and that four members in the Codiac detachment trained on them. The detachment had six patrol carbines, which were being used in training and unavailable, he said.
Paulson said the review by MacNeil must give the RCMP a complete understanding of what happened.
"We — the RCMP — must objectively examine our response and preparation for this type of event," he said. "We will make whatever changes we must to our practices and policies to minimize the chances of this ever happening again."