Judge hands down report on Mayerthorpe fatality inquiry
A judge has released his report on a fatality inquiry, which reviewed the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Constables Peter Schiemann, Anthony Gordon, Brock Myrol and Leo Johnston. The Mounties were gunned down by James Roszko in 2005, and after killing the four officers, Roszko turned the gun on himself.
During the inquiry, the court heard emotional submissions from the victims' family members.
Assistant Chief Judge Daniel R. Pahl writes in his report he finds "there were no failings in the training, experience or abilities of the officers who lost their lives."
He concludes that this incident was "a uniquely tragic event, which could not reasonably have been foreseen or prevented."
Senior Deputy Commissioner Rod Knecht says while the inquiry helped to make the finer details of the March 3rd incident clearer, exactly what happened inside the Quonset will never be know.
And for the families of the four officers, the release of the report opens old wounds.
"You want to put this all behind you. But it will never be because in the end you are missing someone at your dinner table. All the time. There was so much to look forward to," said Leo Johnston's mother, Grace.
The judge states in the report officers were aware of Roszko's history but he had for some years been under the radar.
"He had fled from the bailiffs only a few hours earlier, just as he had done in the only other contact he had had with authority in recent years. Those who flee do not come back is, within the RCMP (and apparently within all police services) a commonly held presumption, which is strongly supported by experience. While a return was always to be considered a possibility, it was not seen as a probability."
The fatality inquiry was aimed at developing a set of non-binding recommendations, in efforts to prevent similar tragedies in the future.
Pahl states RCMP members should be appropriately armed. He says evidence at the inquiry showed that the RCMP no longer offers long-gun training to its recruits.
"This reflects the RCMP's assessment that rifles are not widely used, present a high risk of collateral damage and require individual adjustment.
As well, proficiency in their use is a highly perishable skill."
The judge says the potential for implementing an Active Shooter Response Program has been recommended in an RCMP report and is being examined.
"This recommendation is designed to improve timely access to heavier, long barrelled weapons."
The RCMP reports also recommend that all members should wear side arms when on duty unless they are employed in full-time clerical or identification duties.
In the case of Mayerthorpe, the judge states Const. Schiemann and Sgt. Pinder both attended Roszko's property in plainclothes and unarmed. But the judge points out Schiemann had permission to do so at the time and Sgt. Pinder was on holidays.
The judge also finds an Emergency Medical Response Team program be developed to support high-risk operations. And one program has already been started in Edmonton with the addition of one trained paramedic to the emergency response team.
The judge states while he won't make a recommendation for the use of body armour for officers, he says he strongly endorses and encourages "continuing research, development and deployment of effective body protection systems."
The report also notes better information sharing is critical and the judge recommends each detachment designate a member to fill the role of threat assessment coordinator. The duties of that person would include recording the information about dangerous people in each detachment area.
The judge also suggests tighter security at potential crime scenes. He adds there needs to be national policy guidelines put in place.
During the ninth day of the fatality inquiry, the court heard Roszko had a criminal past dating back decades.
Scrutiny followed the incident on why a man with such a lengthy criminal history had not been labelled a dangerous offender. The judge heard these concerns, but states the mandate of the inquiry did not include discussing these issues. The judge believes it falls under the power of the federal and provincial policy.
March 3rd of this year marked the sixth anniversary of the officers' deaths.
With files from Serena Mah