After years of pressure, 78% of frontline constables are now rifle trained

After years of calls to better arm RCMP officers with rifles, the RCMP says more than 78% of frontline members are now trained on the weapon, but it’s unclear to what extent these officers are distributed across the country.

A rifle is a short-barreled rifle that has more accurate range than a handgun or shotgun.

“It looks like the RCMP are making up for some of the time lost during the initial deployment of the rifle program,” said Christian Leuprecht, a professor at the Royal Military College and Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., who specializes in policing. and security issues.

Distributing rifles to RCMP officers was a key recommendation of an expert report in 2010, following the 2005 tragedy in Mayerthorpe, Alberta, in which four officers were killed.

A review of the 2014 Moncton shootings, in which three constables were killed and two injured, renewed the urgency to deploy more rifles to frontline officers.

The dead officers and two others wounded had no rifles. Instead, they had 9mm handguns.

Since this month, the RCMP has issued 6,650 rifles to approximately 8,500 front line members in detachments across the country. That’s a major jump from the 1,500 rifles in service at the time of the Moncton shooting, according to RCMP national spokesperson Robin Percival.

Back then mass shooting in Nova Scotia in April 2020, where 22 people were killed by a gunman, including a constable who was not rifle trained, Percival said the RCMP had approximately 8,700 frontline members and more than 5,700 rifles spread across all the countries.

In December 2020, approximately eight months after the Nova Scotia massacre, the RCMP updated its national standards to ensure that as many front-line officers as possible are qualified to use a rifle.

As part of these standards, the RCMP has established a benchmark that, by March 31, 2022, at least 65% of the frontline operational members of each detachment will be rifle trained.

The gendarmes will not share the percentage of detachment

The RCMP declined to comment on its progress against that goal.

In an email Thursday, Percival said they could not break the response capabilities of RCMP divisions, districts or detachments for security reasons.

“These capabilities cannot be made public because they provide insight into the type of response/tactics available to RCMP officers – potentially putting the public and police at risk,” Percival said.

As of April 1, 2022, at least 72% of RCMP members in Nova Scotia, where the RCMP provides frontline policing, were rifle trained, but it is unclear where in the province these officers are. are in office.

RCMP staffing issues affect training: expert

Percival said nationally, 78.4% of all frontline members across Canada were also rifle trained as of April 1.

The larger problem is that the RCMP is understaffed nationwide, Leuprecht said, so the organization faces tough choices about where to allocate the people, training and equipment it needs. she disposes.

But Leuprecht said RCMP officers are “disproportionately at risk” because they often operate in rural areas where officers are also more likely to be injured or killed in the line of duty.

“The RCMP has a disproportionate interest in making sure its members have the equipment they need,” Leuprecht said.

“Your save can be very far away, unlike municipal areas where your save is minutes away.”

Christian Leuprecht is a security and defense expert who teaches at the Royal Military College of Canada and Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. (Submitted by Christian Leuprecht)

Leuprecht said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if detachments with lower percentages fell to areas furthest from ranges.

While some larger police forces may have firing ranges in their basements, making it easy for members to complete their annual rifle requalification, Leuprecht said, in many parts of the country, constables are required to conduct hours to get to a shooting range.

“So you remove a member from a shift, and a lot of those detachments are already understaffed,” Leuprecht said.

Cpl. Rodney Peterson of the Bible Hill Detachment, who responded to the mass shooting on April 19 and came across the shooter that morning, told investigators from the investigating commission that he had been trained as an instructor. ‘fire arms.

He took the instructor’s course while at nearby Millbrook Detachment, and Peterson said the goal was for full-time members to complete year-round firearms training and qualifications.

“Unfortunately, I couldn’t give a lot of instructions because … we were understaffed,” Peterson said in an interview with the commission.

const. Charlottetown Police’s Ron Kennedy is seen with a rifle rifle in 2017. The RCMP says as of April 2022, 78% of its entire force is rifle trained, but does not break down the numbers in specific divisions. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Patrol members who are still in the community “should be given priority” in rifle certifications and still have them in their cars, Leuprecht said.

With many municipal forces in urban areas, Leuprecht said it’s “pretty standard” to see patrol officers have rifles and body armor in their vehicles.

These tools are vital in active fire situations, Leuprecht said, because the best strategy is to immediately engage with the shooter and try to contain them.

The ongoing public inquiry into the Nova Scotia mass shooting has heard that Const. Heidi Stevenson, who was killed by the shooter in Shubenacadie after engaging in a firefight with him, was not rifle trained.

Brian Sauvé, president of the National Police Federation (NPF), said that was irrelevant because Stevenson dealt the shooter at point-blank range, so his service pistol was his best option anyway.

The NPF represents thousands of RCMP members under the rank of inspector.

Other NS Officers not trained in rifle in 2020

Leuprecht said in this specific circumstance that’s probably true, but rifles are standard issue in most medium and large municipal police forces in Canada “precisely because it’s hard to predict when and where you might You are likely to find yourself in a situation where a rifle may be needed for public safety or your own safety.

“You don’t want to show up with a knife for a shootout,” Leuprecht said.

Besides Stevenson, other RCMP officers who responded to the mass shooting were not trained to use rifles.

They understood const. Vicki Colford of the Bible Hill Detachment, who was one of the first RCMP officers at the scene in Portapique on April 18, and Cpl. Natasha Jamieson from Millbrook who also responded that evening.

Peterson was rifle trained, but his interviews with police and the commission do not reveal whether he had a rifle in his car.

Sauvé of the police union said in a recent interview that rifle training is considered mandatory for the RCMP, in that it is encouraged for all general duty officers, but “everyone world is human and not everyone can pass every course”.

The RCMP aims for 80% in the next 3 years

“If you can get through it, if the resources allow it, and we have the ability to get you through this course, then we’ll get you through this course. That’s a plus,” Sauvé said.

By 2025, Percival said the percentage of rifle-trained front-line officers will steadily increase until every RCMP detachment reaches at least 80%.

Leuprecht said reaching 100% is probably not a useful goal because there will always be a number of officers who do not need rifle qualifications, such as those in management, doing undercover work or assigned overseas as liaisons.