BY RATTAN MALL
KASH Heed, former B.C. solicitor general, told The VOICE this week that the RCMP need to properly equip and train their officers and ensure they have proper backup when responding to certain situations.
In fact, he believes that following last week’s Supreme Court decision that will allow RCMP officers to have meaningful collective bargaining, the primary focus of their association will be for just that.
Heed pointed out the violent attacks on police officers here in Canada as well as those in France recently, though for different reasons, show that “there seems to be a bit of an alarming trend occurring where people for various reasons, whether its mental health issues, whether it is criminal behaviour or whether its terrorist activity … are directing their anger and violence towards police officers.” He added: “It’s very disturbing.”
Heed said: “When we look at what occurred on the weekend in St. Albert, Alberta, [RCMP Constable David Matthew Wynn, 42, was fatally shot in the head last Saturday morning trying to capture Shawn Maxwell Rehn at an Alberta casino], you have to wonder are we doing enough to ensure the safety of law enforcement personnel in our country.”
That’s also because just last December RCMP Cpl. Jean Rene Michaud was shot and injured by someone inside a vehicle he had stopped in a Kamloops residential area. Kenneth Knudson, 36, faces charges of attempted murder, aggravated assault and two firearms-related charges.
Then last June in Moncton, New Brunswick, RCMP constables Douglas James Larche, 40, Dave Joseph Ross, 32, and Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, 45, were killed while constables Eric Stephane J. Dubois and Marie Darlene Goguen were wounded in a shooting spree by Justin Bourque.
And back in 2005, in Mayerthorpe, Alberta, RCMP constables Anthony Gordon, Lionide Johnston, Brock Myrol and Peter Schiemann were killed by James Roszko as the officers were executing a property seizure on his farm.
HEED said: “When that tragedy happened in Mayerthorpe, Alberta, the recommendations that came out of that report were quite similar to what came out in the report nine years later in Moncton, New Brunswick, and when I read that report – the recommendations – I was actually quite surprised because out of the 64 recommendations only two of them were proactive in regards to ensuring incidents like this don’t occur again. … That was in relation to monitoring social media; secondly, ensuring that we support resources to be in place for teenagers with mental health issues. Those were the only two truly proactive ones.”
Heed added: “But what stood out in those recommendations were several things, for example, an encrypted radio system, a wide-area radio system (WARS), a patrol rifle program – those are things we implemented in Vancouver years ago and in West Vancouver several years ago.
So you have to wonder why, when we in municipal policing put this in place years ago, some of the rural communities that are policed by the RCMP don’t have this type of equipment available to them.”
Heed said: “Then we look at the training and the policies and procedures as they relate to, for example, stolen vehicles, we would have a different response locally than they actually have in some of the remote communities, and that is understandable because you don’t have the resources available.”
Heed pointed out: “We deal with arrests and stolen vehicles hundreds and hundreds of times a day here in Canada. We approach it differently in Vancouver. We have set our policies on what we are going to do, and how we are going to go in and investigate that and arrest the individual. [The RCMP] don’t necessarily have the same policies and procedures and training the same way as municipal policing. So that’s the concern that I have – they are not equipped in a similar fashion.”
Heed said the RCMP have to be able to adapt to whatever situation they are in and “it’s difficult I understand for the RCMP when they are talking about 20,000 members across Canada.”
He added: “So it goes to the larger discussion here: Do we have the right mandate for a federal force? Do we have the right mandate for provincial police forces? And do we have the right mandate for a municipality?” We had to look at all of those because the RCMP function in all of them.
Heed also asked: “Have we cut the RCMP too thin especially when we are looking at terrorism threats and other threats against the nation that the RCMP are mandated to deal with?”
HEED also pointed out another disturbing aspect to some of the recent incidents where the suspects have a long history of violent criminal behaviour.
He said: “Why are these people out there roaming our streets? We have to look at that. Are we putting the right people in jail? Are we putting those violent offenders that have created havoc in our society in jail? We have to look at that. I don’t think we are.”
Heed added: “These people are out there roaming the streets and I can tell you right now these individuals aren’t the only ones – there are a dime a dozen out there right now, people that have violent criminal histories that are out there walking around freely as we speak.”