Skip to content

RCMP made errors in Wagmatcook shooting: commission

(CBC News) – The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP says errors in judgment and poor decision-making played a significant role in the fatal shooting of a man in Wagmatcook, N.S., in 2008.

Const. Jeremy Frenette shot John Simon at his home on the Wagmatcook First Nations reserve in December 2008. The officer responded after another resident called police to deal with an allegedly drunk, suicidal and armed Simon.

A Halifax police investigation cleared Frenette of any criminal wrongdoing in Simon’s death and the RCMP failed to launch a disciplinary review of his actions within a year of Simon’s death, as it is required to do by law.

The commission announced its intention to launch an inquiry in March 2010, saying that public concerns about the police investigation caused it to get involved.

The report, which was made public Friday, said the lack of disciplinary process for the officers involved in the incident is a matter of profound public concern.

The RCMP responded by accepting most of the report’s findings in a media conference Friday afternoon.

The commission found that the senior RCMP member on the scene failed to order Frenette to pull back from the residence when he knew or ought to have known that the constable was considering entering the house. The report said Frenette acted in an inappropriate manner by entering the home.

It found that once inside, Frenette did have sufficient grounds to believe his life was in jeopardy as Simon confronted the officer by aiming a rifle at him.

The RCMP has accepted 10 of the commission’s 12 findings and agreed with all 11 recommendations put forward. These range from individual remedial training to a review of training related to how officers handle incidents involving barricaded individuals.

Blair McKnight, RCMP chief superintendent, said the RCMP regrets the role it played in Simon’s death and said the force intends to personally apologize to the family and the Wagmatcook band.

“We acknowledge that the command and control of the scene and the operational planning surrounding the event did not meet the best standards of policing,” he said.

McKnight said the RCMP in Nova Scotia has made a number of changes in response to the commission’s recommendations.

These include a new policy on critical incidents, including those involving barricaded persons; an updated training curriculum; an increased emphasis on the management of critical incidents and a commitment to ensuring investigations involving RCMP employees are completed in a timely manner.

  • Share/Bookmark

Categories: Death While In Custody, Excessive use of Force, Oversight of the RCMP, Public Complaints, Senior Management, Shoddy Investigations.

Comment Feed

10 Responses

  1. DT, did not mean to misquote you.

    “Finding: No training deficiencies contributing to this incident were identified.”
    Why would they? Building entry and searches is covered in Depot Training.

    Calvin Lawrence

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 8

    Calvin Lawrence2011.03.25 @ 22:14
  2. Calvin, I am not the author of that quote you attribute to me. It is taken from the CPC report.

    You say: “If the members (SIC) was ordered not to enter and he disobeyed the order he was wrong.” I think the CPC report is clear on that. There was no such ‘order’ given and they feel that the S/Sgt. should have. The senior member on scene did not either.

    It stands to reason that if you do not provide some clear direction in such instances persons will take some action albeit incorrect or with good intentions. The CPC covered that with the following recommendation: “Recommendation: That Staff Sergeant Thompson be provided training in operational supervision of junior members and in critical incident planning and management.”

    Even though in their findings they state: “Finding: No training deficiencies contributing to this incident were identified.”

    Why so many contradictions? Who keeps an eye on the CPC?

    Well-liked. Do you Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 5

    Deepthroat2011.03.24 @ 16:51
  3. Staff Sergeant Thompson should have clearly indicated to the junior member that he should not enter the residence without express instruction. “

    During my time as an Instructor/Facilitator at Depot Division there was a segment devoted to “Building Entries and Searches”. This was conducted by the Police Defensive Tactics Unit. If a member had to enter a building they were shown how to do so. However it was stressed that if a suspect is contained in an area or building you wait!
    You wait for backup unless there is a reason not to do so, and it better be a justifiable reason . The backup may consist of other members, police dog, or an Emergency Response Team.

    The point that I am making is that RCMP members come out of Depot knowing what to do in these circumstances. There could be confusion in relation to some circumstances. There seems to be very little confusion here as to the circumstance that would require a lone RCMP member to enter the residence.

    In fact this would be considered “Officer Imposed Jeopardy”. Also keep in mind that one of the “Ten deadly Errors” that causes death or injury to police officers is “Tombstone Courage”.
    The members actions could have cost him his life.

    If the members was ordered not to enter and he disobeyed the order he was wrong.

    If he had to enter the residence; he knew how to do so involving other members.

    Training, common sense, and following orders should have been the proper response.

    Calvin Lawrence

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 11 Thumb down 11

    Calvin Lawrence2011.03.23 @ 21:36
  4. The “bottom line” is that the RCMP screwed this up from the beginning. If Frenette had obeyed the direct order this situation might have had a happier ending. If the S/Sgt had positioned Frenette and the other responding members correctly Frenette may not have had the opportunity to enter the residence and this situation might have had a happier ending. If the S/Sgt had formulated an operational plan and made sure all the members knew what it was Frenette may not have entered the residence and this situation might have had a happy ending. Frenette’s actions, while wrong on almost every level, didn’t take place in a vacuum.

    I’m not arguing that in the end Cst. Frenette’s actions directly cost Mr. Simon his life. Frenette must be held to account for that. However, my point is that the RCMP would be quite happy to let the public assume that all the blame rests with him and to avoid any questions about the competence (or lack thereof) of the scene supervisor and senior management. Lets not forget that the RCMP failed to conduct any sort of disciplinary review of Frenette’s actions until more than a year had passed. Another ball dropped by people who are supposed to know what they’re doing. Beyond making clear Cst. Frenette’s failure to obey orders this incident illustrates yet again that RCMP management can’t seem to do anything right.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 15

    sickntired2011.03.23 @ 17:30
  5. sickntired says: “Wouldn’t you think the RCMP would provide such training before placing him in an operational supervisory position?

    Quite right. And unless there was some extenuating circumstance, why was this senior officer not at the scene taking charge, managing resources, making on site decisions with first hand knowledge.

    Well-liked. Do you Like or Dislike: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 2

    Deepthroat2011.03.23 @ 16:59
  6. D, try reading the CPC report at the link I gave you and you will note the inaccuracy of your statements vis a vis “direct orders”. Try to keep up.

    “The Commissioner did not take issue with the second and key element of my finding and, in fact, he acknowledged that Staff Sergeant Thompson should have clearly indicated to the junior member that he should not enter the residence without express instruction. “

    Well-liked. Do you Like or Dislike: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 5

    Deepthroat2011.03.23 @ 16:56
  7. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Poorly-rated. Do you Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 25

    D2011.03.20 @ 10:27
  8. News coverage of this incident to date seems to be fixated on Cst. Frenette’s actions. I’d like to hear from the RCMP as to how someone achieves the rank of S/Sgt in an operational position and yet, as the senior member at a barricaded person complaint fails to put in place an operational plan and ensure that the other members understand it and allows his subordinates to place themselves in jeopardy. (This is all fairly basic stuff and covered in policy.) It appears that the only thing this guy did right was to call ERT. The CPC has recommended that the S/Sgt be given “training in operational supervision of junior members and in critical incident planning and management”. Wouldn’t you think the RCMP would provide such training before placing him in an operational supervisory position? I’d like to know if he was given any such training at any point in his service, and how he did at it, and how much operational experience he’d had prior to this fiasco.

    I’m also guessing we’ll hear nothing about this because the RCMP’s transfer and promotions practices do not bear scrutiny. Its often not a case of the right person for the job. Its often a case of dropping in someone of the required rank and hoping for the best.

    DT mentions the “unholy zeal to appear to be doing something … “. He’s right about that – everyone in the chain of command above the S/Sgt is thinking of their own promotional opportunities.

    Well-liked. Do you Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 7

    sickntired2011.03.20 @ 03:21
  9. Community still frustrated by RCMP handling of Simon shooting

    March 18, 2011
    Steve MacInnis, Wagmatcook, N.S.
    (Cape Breton Post)

    The release of a report from the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP into the fatal shooting of a First Nations man appears to have done little to repair and strengthen relations between the Mounties and the community.

    “John Simon should still be alive today and we need more answers,” said Wagmatcook Chief Norman Bernard in offering a comment on the report, which was released Friday.

    The chief reiterated his demand for a public inquiry into Simon’s death, which occurred at his home after a standoff with police Dec. 2, 2008. Simon was shot three times by Const. Jeremy Frenette who was off-duty but called in to aid in the standoff.

    Bernard said the community of 750 residents is still frustrated by how the RCMP handled the standoff, a subsequent investigation into the shooting — completed by both RCMP and Halifax Regional Police — and the release of the commission’s report.

    “They’ve had this report for months without making any of us aware of what is in it,” he said.
    “They should be here releasing this report. Until they come here and be open and fair with the people, the community will continue to be frustrated,” said Bernard, who is expected to offer a formal response to the report next Wednesday.
    Since the shooting, the community, located near Baddeck, had grappled with the issue of policing and had considered proposals from the Cape Breton Regional Police. The community continues to be patrolled by RCMP.

    The report was released on the commission’s website Friday and the RCMP held a press conference in Halifax to offer comment.

    Bernard’s opinions are shared by Patsy MacKay, Simon’s widow, who said that a key commission recommendation that the RCMP offer an apology to the family and the community is meaningless.
    “I have yet to even see the report,” said MacKay.

    “They sat on it for five months and I’ve had no contact with anyone from the RCMP during this whole thing. I’ve had no contact. Zero. No regular updates. Nothing,” said MacKay, during an interview Friday.

    “They can take their apology and bury it,” she said.

    MacKay would also like to see a public inquiry and hopes her husband’s case might become an issue in the pending federal election.

    “I really feel like my family has been left hanging in the wind on this issue by the RCMP. To do what they have done, really hurts my feelings,” said MacKay, who had been married to Simon for 24 years.

    The commission launched its own probe into the Simon case citing public interest.

    The final report offered 12 findings of fact and 11 recommendations. RCMP Commissioner William Elliott accepted 10 of the findings and all of the recommendations.

    RCMP spokesperson in Nova Scotia, Sgt. Brigit Leger said Friday that Frenette was traumatized by the shooting and has been unable to work since. He remains a member of the force and is on leave from his duties.

    She said it is the RCMP’s intention to meet with the family and the band council but said she was not authorized to offer any time frame when that meeting will occur and could not answer any questions concerning the report.

    According to MacKay, there is suppose to be a meeting Monday with the family and the RCMP but she said she has no intention of attending.

    The report notes that Frenette entered the home at 15 Katie Lane without permission or notifying other officers on the scene of his intention. He entered through a window but tripped on curtains and fell over a couch onto the floor.
    Simon, who was intoxicated at the time, heard the commotion and confronted the officer pointing a rifle at him.

    The first of Frenette’s bullets struck Simon in the left hand while the two other shots struck the man in the chest. Once Simon fell face-first to the floor, Frenette checked the rifle and found it was not loaded.

    “It’s still murder whichever (way) you look at it,” said MacKay, who has filed a civil suit against the Mounties in relation to the shooting.

    The commission’s report concluded RCMP members who attended the scene were aiming for a peaceful resolve of the situation but that errors in judgment and poor decision making played a significant role in the death of Simon.

    One point of contention for the Simon family and the community is that no one was ever disciplined in connection with the incident.

    “Our investigation revealed a number of troubling details surrounding the often confusing and unco-ordinated way RCMP managers approached examining the conduct of the members involved,” states the report.
    Frenette was never disciplined over the shooting because senior RCMP officials in Nova Scotia concluded there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a code of conduct review and no action was taken by those superiors within a mandated one-year time frame.

    “The RCMP did not provide any records which demonstrated the matter was properly considered within the one-year limitation period,” according to the complaint commission report.

  10. Interesting juxtaposition to the incident on the prairies where the crazed individual was left on the bus to behead and cannibalize a victim while the officers were ‘told’ to not enter the bus. The family members were not pleased with that situation. Had the officers entered the bus earlier they may or may not have had to use deadly force but probably could have prevented the cannibalism.

    So the disturbing issue that surfaces, is one of command and control. Are we to ask that officers do nothing at any time unless a supervisor, not even at the scene, directs them? Or are we to have officers use their best judgment at the time, lauding their efforts if successful and starting a crucifixion if errors are made? Imagine if the end result of the officers actions were a scuffle and arrest. Good job before someone was shot.

    I note in the CPC report the following: “Similarly, “H” Division has already implemented a policy in respect of the handling of barricaded persons, as well as putting in place a Risk Assessment Check Sheet accessible from mobile workstations.” That will fix everything.

    So I take it from this that while someone may be barricaded and threatening persons with a firearm we should take heart that the officer on scene is completing a check sheet on his in-car computer?

    One of the findings of the CPC states that an “adequate operational plan” was not put in place by the distant supervisor. Nice catch phrase but lacking in substance.

    Also found: “No training deficiencies contributing to this incident were identified.” However in the recommendations they suggest: “That a review of the RCMP training curriculum regarding the response process to critical incidents such as barricaded persons be conducted, ensuring that issues of containment and the management of emotionally disturbed persons are adequately addressed.”

    Seems to be a bit of contradiction.

    Again: “Finding: Constable Frenette had sufficient grounds to believe his life was in jeopardy and that the decision to resort to the use of lethal force by discharging his service pistol at Mr. Simon was appropriate in the circumstances.”

    Yet in the recommendations: “That Constable Frenette undergo full remedial training in the IM/IM as well as the CAPRA model. ”

    More contradiction. The list goes on. In the unholy zeal to appear to be doing something it would appear that instead of careful examination of the facts, reasoned discourse, and thought out findings / recommendations that will not hinder future incidents, there has been a rush to blather out some ‘mea cupla’ dissertations.

    I am afraid that what the eventual end result of all the naval gazing and pronouncements country wide will be textbook mindless and robotic responses to classifications of incidents predetermined in a book or computer somewhere.

    Just ponder the eventual response to ‘person with a gun’ calls that are received regularly, that turn out to be replicas, pellet guns, tripods.

    I am also wondering what steps the Band and its “government” are doing to assist persons with alcohol dependency, mental issues, and violent tendencies with access to firearms. What did they do in respect of Mr Simon before this tragedy? Do we even care?

    Well-liked. Do you Like or Dislike: Thumb up 28 Thumb down 9

    Deepthroat2011.03.19 @ 18:52
Get Adobe Flash playerPlugin by wordpress themes