The RCMP isn’t sure that all its officers have access to the rifles and body armour they need to respond to an active shooter, almost five years after three Mounties were gunned down in New Brunswick, Canada’s auditor general has found.
In a report released Tuesday, interim auditor Sylvain Ricard said the national police force has mismanaged the purchase, distribution and ongoing maintenance of semi-automatic rifles known as carbines.
In June 2014, a heavily armed assailant in Moncton, N.B., killed three Mounties and wounded two others. The RCMP had about 1,500 high-powered carbines nationwide at the time but officers in the Moncton detachment had not been trained to use them.
The RCMP was convicted under the Canada Labour Code in 2017 of having failed to provide members with the training and equipment to deal with an attack that left the community reeling.
The police force subsequently bought thousands of carbines but did not know whether it had provided the rifles to all of the officers who needed them, the auditor general said.
The auditor also discovered the RCMP had enough hard body armour across the country but not all officers had access to the equipment, which protects officers’ vital organs from bullets.
“Overall, we found that not all RCMP officers had access to the equipment they needed to respond to an active-shooter situation,” the report said.
The RCMP agreed with the auditor’s various recommendations and outlined plans to remedy the failings, including progress to date.
The police force realized in 2011 that its officers lacked the firearms they needed to respond effectively to criminals armed with deadly weapons. The Mounties bought 527 carbines in 2012 and, as of last October, had 6,211 of the short-barrelled rifles in service.
In 2014, the force committed to providing the rifles to officers who might be at risk. However, the auditor found the RCMP did not consistently define who those officers were across its divisions. It also had no national standard for the number of carbines needed to equip its officers.
Some detachments did not have enough carbines, which meant there were no spares for when the guns were being serviced.
In addition, there were discrepancies between the RCMP’s data and the number of carbines in various detachments. “So, RCMP National Headquarters did not have a full picture of the actual location of the carbines within the divisions,” the audit report says. “The RCMP could not confirm that officers who needed the equipment had access to it.”
The Mounties say they have introduced electronic, interactive maps to track the whereabouts of carbines and the officers trained to use them.
Distribution of carbines is based on “an ongoing, evergreen risk assessment,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told a news conference. “If we are going to have a successful police force, the officers themselves need to be safe and secure and in a position to do their job.”
The auditor also found:
— The RCMP did not have a plan to manage the acquisition of carbines, causing bottlenecks in distribution and backlogs in recertifying members on how to use them as well as for maintenance of the guns;
— The police force met its target for the initial training of front-line officers on carbines, but 13 per cent of those officers had not completed annual recertification training;
— Half the force’s carbines had not been maintained according to RCMP policy;
— Deficiencies with pistol maintenance and mandatory recertification training.
Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press