Trial laid bare RCMP tensions, 'toxic culture,' observers say ahead of verdict | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Trial laid bare RCMP tensions, 'toxic culture,' observers say ahead of verdict

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson arrives to testify at the RCMP's trial on violating four charges of the Canada Labour Code in Moncton, N.B. on Thursday, June 15, 2017. The RCMP's Labour Code trial stemming from a New Brunswick shooting rampage has laid bare the tensions and ``toxic culture'' within Canada's national police force, observers said ahead of a verdict expected Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
September 28, 2017 - 5:29 AM

MONCTON, N.B. - The RCMP's Labour Code trial stemming from a New Brunswick shooting rampage has laid bare the tensions and "toxic culture" within Canada's national police force, observers said ahead of a verdict expected Friday.

The RCMP pleaded not guilty of failing to provide officers with the appropriate equipment and training after Justin Bourque's June 4, 2014, shooting spree that left three officers dead and two injured.

The trial provided an unprecedented glimpse into how police policy is developed, and has shone a spotlight on clashes within the force, according to Greg Marquis, a professor at the University of New Brunswick who wrote a book on Canadian policing history.

"It's a chance to see history unfolding," said Marquis, who teaches history and politics and has been attending the proceedings in Moncton as part of a new book he is writing about police use of force.

"The rank and file were saying we need to have patrol carbines for officer and public safety... and leadership were worried about the public seeing it as militarization. So there's some internal politics of the RCMP at play here. It reveals those tensions within the RCMP."

Judge Leslie Jackson is expected to hand down his ruling Friday morning.

Constables Fabrice Gevaudan, Dave Ross and Doug Larche were killed, and constables Eric Dubois and Darlene Goguen were wounded, when a heavily armed Bourque targeted police officers in hopes of sparking an anti-government rebellion.

The C8 carbine rifles — a version of an assault rifle similar to an M16 — were not available to general duty officers during the rampage, and numerous witnesses have testified they could have made a difference.

The weapons were approved for use in 2011, but their rollout was delayed on several occasions.

Mounties were called to testify on both sides of the case. A constable who crouched behind his cruiser wounded and bleeding declared front-line officers in Moncton were outgunned by Bourque, while retired commissioner Bob Paulson told the court the C8 carbine had to be rolled out responsibly.

Paulson's court appearance even prompted an RCMP corporal to write an open letter condemning the then-commissioner's testimony as a clear failure of leadership.

Terry McKee of the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada said the RCMP was "feeding peanuts to an army that requires meat and potatoes."

The retired Mountie said the trial has exposed to the public a "toxic culture" within the RCMP that goes back decades, saying management has been more concerned with the force's image than officer safety.

He hopes the Moncton provincial court judge finds the force guilty.

"I am hopeful. From everything I heard and saw in testimony would tell me that they're going to be found guilty," said McKee. "If they are found guilty, we must find more accountability other than just a fine being paid from one federal institution to another."

McKee said once the Labour Code trial concludes, the association may explore civil or criminal litigation against "the individuals that are guilty of not provided the proper equipment and training."

In his closing argument in July, Crown prosecutor Paul Adams called Paulson "contrived'' in his testimony at the trial, saying he contradicted himself in categorically refusing to acknowledge that officers were not properly trained or equipped to respond to the fatal shooting — despite overwhelming evidence that said the opposite.

Paulson had testified he was involved in initial discussions about the introduction of the C8 carbine, and said officers were reasonably trained and the carbine rollout was reasonable.

"It's disappointing. It's evasive, contrived, self-serving evidence,'' Adams said at the time. "There was an entrenched unwillingness on the part of senior management ... to admit anything that would have reflected badly on the RCMP's position.''

Meanwhile, RCMP lawyers argued the national police force exercised due diligence. Defence lawyer Ian Carter said bureaucracy dictates how governments work and adopting patrol carbines for the RCMP took time for a number of reasons, including finances and federal procurement regulations.

"The issue was complex and serious,'' Carter said. "You just don't go out and buy guns as a potential solution to every problem.''

Adams argued the RCMP pushed the patrol carbine issue to the back burner for at least two years when it was dealing with the public backlash from the 2007 Tasering death of Robert Dziekanski, and that cannot be considered excising due diligence.

Bourque was sentenced to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 75 years after pleading guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.

The rampage set off a 30-hour manhunt that drew in officers from around the region.

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News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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