RCMP did about-face on carbines recommendation, expert tells trial in Moncton shootings

A criminology professor who recommended in 2010 that the RCMP immediately adopt carbines for all uniformed officers testified Monday he got conflicting responses from the national police force.

Darryl Davies, a professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, said the RCMP initially rejected his report in 2010 as being "inadequate," but by January 2011, he was thanked for the great job he had done and invited out to lunch.

The about-face came after the inquest into the 2005 shooting deaths of four RCMP officers in Mayerthorpe, Alta., said Davies.

"I guess they decided to go ahead with my recommendations, he told the RCMP's trial over alleged labour code safety violations in connection with the 2014 shooting deaths of three Moncton Mounties and wounding of two others.

"You needed the carbine, and you [needed] it yesterday," said Davies, summarizing his report for the Moncton courtroom.

He said he found overwhelming support among frontline officers for replacing shotguns with carbines, and he concluded the advantages outweighed the disadvantages.

"It was a no-brainer."

At the time of the Moncton shootings in June 2014, no one in the local Codiac Regional RCMP detachment had been trained to use the carbines, but some detachments elsewhere in the country were more advanced.

Davies said he was commissioned by the RCMP in April 2009 and asked to consider three options: replacing shotguns with carbines, keeping shotguns, and adding carbines to the force's existing weapons.

He submitted his report on March 3, 2010, but said he received no response for three months.

"I was astounded," he told the Moncton courtroom.

In June, after he was already paid $80,000 for the report, he received a letter from Bob Paulson, the assistant commissioner at the time, expressing dissatisfaction, he said.

His review "didn't go into enough detail" and didn't have enough Canadian data, he was told.

Davies, who had worked on three previous contracts for the RCMP, said he had a verbal agreement this study would consist of a questionnaire for RCMP members, another questionnaire for police officers from other forces and a literature review.

But during cross-examination, defence lawyer Mark Ertel suggested Paulson told Davies he was supposed to do a needs-analysis of firearms and instead did a survey.

"For the first time in eight years, I finally understand why I got that letter," Davies said. "You've done me an invaluable service.

"Communication broke down at the RCMP and it certainly broke down with me."

Accused of having 'axe to grind'

Earlier in the proceedings, Ertel had accused Davies of being biased against Paulson, who is now commissioner.

"There's a little personal battle you have with Bob Paulson," he said, referring to Davies having spoken out against Paulson through the media.

Davies, who called for Paulson's resignation after issues of sexual harassment within the force surfaced, said his comments were in response to questions asked by reporters.

"So you're not here with an axe to grind?" asked Ertel.

"Absolutely not," Davies replied.

"You've already called the RCMP guilty in the media in this very case," continued Ertel, reading one of the media reports that quoted Davies.

"Officers killed because they were not provided adequate weapons," Ertel read aloud. "Where's the presumption of innocence," he asked.

"Those are fair comments," replied Davies.

Carbine pros and cons

Davies said he became aware of "a gap in the firearms technology as early as 2005," when the Mounties were ambushed in Mayerthorpe.

During that shooting, officers were asking neighbouring farmers if they could borrow guns, he said.

When he met with the RCMP in 2009, Davies was told the force was being mocked by other forces in Canada for not already having the carbines, he said.

His report found there were several advantages to adopting carbines, including shooting distance and accuracy.

Carbines could enable officers to neutralize an active shooter without having to get close and compromise their own safety, said Davies. The accuracy of the weapons would also be good for public safety, he said.

One of the disadvantages he identified included the fact that carbines are so powerful they can penetrate bullet-proof vests and even buildings. Proper training is essential, he stressed.

Davies also noted the high cost of carbines, about $1,500 to $2,500 at the time, and potential opposition from government, based on the cost. But his report indicated cost should never take precedence over safety considerations, he said.

79% wanted carbines

A survey he conducted found tremendous support for adopting carbines among about 100 RCMP members who responded, said Davies.

The lion's share of respondents described the shotgun and 9-mm pistol as "archaic" technology, he said.

Seventy-nine per cent of the RCMP respondents said they wanted the carbine, either as a replacement of shotguns, or in addition to, the courtroom heard.

About 70 per cent said they believed adopting carbines would improve morale among members.

Some expressed concerns there would be a backlash, with citizens accusing the RCMP of "militarizing." But the majority felt the public would understand the need for the force to better arm itself, he said.

Charges after investigation

After Justin Bourque's shooting rampage in a Moncton neighbourhood, Employment and Social Development Canada investigated, which happens any time a federal government employee dies on the job.

The investigation concluded in May 2015 with charges against the national police force, which was accused of four health and safety violations under the Canada Labour Code.

No individual RCMP manager or supervisor is named in the charges, which are:

- Failing to provide RCMP members with appropriate use of force equipment and related user training when responding to an active threat or active shooter event.

- Failing to provide RCMP members with appropriate information, instruction and/or training to ensure their health and safety when responding to an active threat or active shooter event in an open environment.

- Failing to provide RCMP supervisory personnel with appropriate information, instruction and/or training to ensure the health and safety of RCMP members when responding to an active threat or active shooter event in an open environment.

- Failing to ensure the health and safety at work of every person employed by it, namely: RCMP members, was protected.

Each charge carries a maximum fine of $1 million.

The RCMP pleaded not guilty to all charges and elected to be tried by judge only.

Just over two months have been set aside for the trial, which began last week.

The trial resumes on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. AT with continued cross-examination of Davies, the Crown's third witness.