More than three years before Mounties were shot in Moncton, researchers hired by the RCMP warned the national force it was at "high risk" of being held accountable under the Canada Labour Code for the injury or death of inadequately trained front-line officers, a witness testified Wednesday.
Dr. Kate Kaminska said the overall conclusion of her 2011 report for the RCMP was that front-line officers were not adequately equipped to deal with threats they encountered.
But the RCMP's response to Kaminska's report was to commission another study, she testified during Day 8 of the RCMP's labour code trial in Moncton.
The RCMP is accused of violating health and safety provisions of the labour code in connection with the deaths of three Codiac Regional RCMP officers and wounding of two others during the shooting rampage of Justin Bourque in June 2014.
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Last week, witnesses testified the RCMP wanted to adhere to strict methodology regarding weapons research after the criticism they faced following the Taser death of Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver International Airport in 2007.
Kaminska, the Crown's fifth witness, is the scientific advisor to the chief of staff at Defence Research and Development Canada. She led a risk assessment the government agency conducted for the RCMP in October 2010.
The goal was to understand the risk front-line officers face on a daily basis and whether more could be done to mitigate that risk, she said.
Not an evidence-based study
There were "limitations in the scientific methodology used," said Kaminska, noting the research was largely based on case studies and talking to officers, as opposed to evidence-based.
But one finding was that RCMP members were more likely than officers with other forces in Canada to be killed by gunfire in the line of duty, said Kaminska.
RCMP jurisdictions seem to have the highest rates of long-gun ownership and crime, she explained under questioning by Crown prosecutor Paul Adams. In many cases, RCMP members respond to situations involving long guns with hand guns, which is insufficient, said Kaminska.
The firearms capability gap was compounded by a training shortfall for front-line officers, which led to decreased confidence in responding to situations, she said.
3 areas identified as high risks
Three areas were identified as high risk: training, equipment and failure to comply with the Canada Labour Code, she said.
High risk, she said, was defined as having a high likelihood of happening, or a high impact or consequence, and not enough mitigation measures in place to prevent it.
The most high-risk area, because it can lead to injury or death, was found to be the failure to ensure RCMP members were provided with adequate training, Kaminska said.
Failure to ensure adequate equipment was available was identified as the second top risk, she said. In all its history, the force had never researched what firearms members actually needed, but rather just went by what was convenient, the study found.
Possible consequences of this approach include death and serious injury and a severe psychological impact on officers, which can lead to loss of confidence to respond safely, said Kaminska.
The third highest risk was the RCMP possibly being held accountable for death or injury for failing to provide proper training or equipment, she said.
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Mitigating measures, such as members having to arrange training on their own, or having to wait for Emergency Response Teams to show up during serious incidents, were not appropriate, she said.
The report recommended that the RCMP:
- Undertake more research to find a solution to the firearm capability gap.
- Undertake more research to determine current and future training needs.
- Implement a regular periodic process to evaluate firearms.
The report was completed around January or February 2011, was peer-reviewed and then presented to the RCMP in May 2011, said Kaminska.
But the force had copies of the working draft a couple of months prior, she said.
The report was accepted by the RCMP, who proceeded to a second phase of research to find a solution to the firearms capability gap, said Kaminska.
Low rate of firearms crimes
During cross-examination, defence lawyer Ian Carter argued the risk of the RCMP violating the labour code was outside the researcher's scope.
He noted Kaminska wrote in her conclusions about the risks officers face that it is a "complex and multi-faceted" problem.
Budget constraints also needed to be considered in firearms procurement, Carter suggested.
"You recognize the RCMP is a public institution, correct? There's not an unlimited pot of money," he said.
Kaminska agreed. Carter also pointed out New Brunswick was identified in the report as having one of the lowest crime rates in the country, lower than the national average.
In addition, New Brunswick was the third lowest in terms of firearms crimes, said Carter. Only 2.4 per cent of violent crimes in Canada involve firearms, the study found.
4 charges under labour code
On Tuesday, the defence questioned another consultant's report into carbines.
Defence lawyer Mark Ertel argued the RCMP rejected the recommendations of Carleton University criminology Prof. Darryl Davies because his report was largely anecdotal and didn't meet expectations
Davies testified on Monday that his 2010 report concluded the force needed to acquire carbines for front-line officers "yesterday."
The trail, which started last week, is scheduled to resume on Thursday at 9 a.m. AT. It's expected to last about two months.
The charges against the RCMP 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. 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.