Carbines deemed superior to RCMP guns 2 years before Moncton Mountie shootings

A firearms testing experiment completed more than two years before the Moncton Mountie shootings found carbines clearly outperformed all weapons provided to RCMP officers at the time, the labour code trial for the national police force heard Thursday.

Simona Verga, a scientist with Defence Research and Development Canada, who has a PhD in physics, led the study designed to find a solution to the RCMP's previously identified firearms capability gap, and wrote the 2012 report.

Her experiment, conducted in 2011 at the RCMP's academy depot in Regina, found carbines were superior to the handguns, pistols and shotguns used by members, in terms of both range and accuracy, said Verga.

The higher performance of carbines was "remarkable," given more than 60 per cent of the participants had no prior experience with the semi-automatic firearm, she told the Moncton courtroom on Day 9 of the trial.

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The RCMP is accused of violating four health and safety provisions of the Canada Labour Code in connection with the shooting deaths of three Moncton Mounties and wounding of two others during Justin Bourque's shooting spree in June 2014.

Verga said the main conclusion of her report commissioned by the RCMP was that carbines were an appropriate solution to fill the firearms capability gap, enabling officers to do their job safely and to protect the public.

The report was finalized in June 2012, but the RCMP was aware of its content starting around April 2012, she said.

Verga could not say what the force did with the information from the government agency.

Officers outgunned

A review of 28 shooting incidents dating back to 2004 was the first part of the study to determine operational requirements, said Verga.

The review, conducted in February 2011, showed suspects were more able to incapacitate officers than officers were able to incapacitate suspects because officers were generally outgunned, said Verga.

"They overwhelmingly respond with their duty pistols to long-gun situations," she said.

The effective range for pistols is 25 metres, but some of the cases reviewed involved distances of up to 170 metres.

Based on the experiences officers faced, Verga and her team developed 12 scenarios and analyzed what weapons would be required to respond effectively, she said.

The firearms test saw weapons fired from various distances with moving targets.

Details of contract reviewed

Earlier in the day, the trial also heard from Supt. Troy Lightfoot again. Lightfoot was the supervisor of Supt. Bruce Stuart, a tactical operations expert who studied the possible implementation of carbines by RCMP officers. He also commissioned a study on carbines by Carleton University criminology Prof. Darryl Davies in 2009-10.

Lightfoot testified last week but was recalled at the request of defence lawyer Mark Ertel because of new evidence that came to light in subsequent testimony by Davies.

Davies told the court his work was based on an oral contract with Lightfoot, not the RCMP statement of work. But under questioning by Ertel on Thursday, Lightfoot said via video conference from RCMP headquarters in Ottawa there was no oral contract.

Ertel asked Lightfoot whether Davies ever told him he couldn't complete some parts of the statement of work, or whether Lightfoot ever told Davies the RCMP would complete some parts for him. Lightfoot replied no to both.

During re-examination, Crown prosecutor Paul Adams asked Lightfoot whether it was realistic Davies could complete all the work within four months. Lightfoot said Davies told him he could.

Asked whether there was a document signed by both parties outlining what Davies was going to do, Lightfoot said there was a contract that laid out remuneration and timeline, but not the expectations of Davies.​

The trail, which started last week, is scheduled to resume Monday at 9:30 a.m. AT, when the Crown will call its seventh witness. About two months have been set aside for the trial.

'High risk' of being held accountable

On Wednesday the court heard testimony from Dr. Kate Kaminska, the scientific adviser to the chief of staff at Defence Research and Development Canada.

In an assessment of the RCMP she wrote in 2010, she warned the force there was a "high risk" of the RCMP being held accountable under the Canada Labour Code for the injury or death of inadequately trained officers.

The RCMP's response to her report was to commission another one.

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The study also stated that RCMP officers were more likely to be killed by gunfire in comparison to other police forces in Canada. According to Kaminska this is related to the higher rates of long-gun ownership in RCMP jurisdictions.

The RCMP is charged with four violations of the Canada Labour Code relating to the Moncton Mountie shootings on June 4, 2014.

Each charge carries a maximum fine of $1 million. No individual RCMP manager or supervisor is named in the charges.

Justin Bourque pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder in the Moncton shootings and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 75 years  — the longest prison sentence in Canadian history.