Police Gun Grab

What ” Hard Decisions” did the RCMP make in High River, Alberta?

By —— Bio and Archives--June 6, 2014

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Airdrie, Alberta—I am analyzing every scrap of information released by the RCMP and National Defence, in response to more than two dozen of my federal Access to Information Act requests, hoping to shed some light on the “hard decisions” that RCMP Staff Sgt. Ian Shardlow said were made in High River, Alberta during last June’s flood.

Danielle Smith, MLA for High River and Leader of the Official Opposition Wildrose Party organized and held a very successful town hall meeting in High River on September 5, 2013. Staff/Sgt. Ian Shardlow, NCO in charge of the High River detachment, was invited to address the many concerns raised by a few hundred irate homeowners that night. The Sun News Network recorded the proceedings and this is a direct quote made by Staff/Sgt. Shardlow: “What I’m suggesting to you though is that the High River members aren’t the ones that made the hard decisions, whether they’re born out to be correct or not. Rather than leave them in a position where they may have to police the community afterward, right, in an unhealthy environment, every member that comes back to work in High River didn’t work from the 24th of June into a significant period into July. None of them made the hard decisions, none of them opened your doors, kicked your doors, smashed your doors, none of them searched your homes.” [emphasis added]

Attached is my analysis of a RCMP High River Firearms “Seized-Located and Secured” Spreadsheet listing some of the information released by the RCMP with respect to the seizure of 609 firearms between June 20, 2013 and July 10, 2013 during local and provincial state of emergency declared in High River. The column entitled “Location Where Recovered” was completely blanked out by the RCMP. Were they worried that it might prove the guns they seized were not “in plain view” as several RCMP spokespersons told the media following the gun grab revelations on June 28th?

My analysis of the firearms seized from High River homes during the flood exposes some interesting contradictions to Staff/Sgt. Shardlow’s version of events. On June 21st, 22nd and 23rd RCMP officers seized (without warrant) 168 firearms obtained by the unlawful entry of 39 High River homes. A review of the 143 pages of handwritten notes taken by High River RCMP search teams shows one dated June 21st, three dated June 22nd and nine dated June 23rd. What were the local High River RCMP officers doing if they weren’t searching homes, kicking in doors and seizing guns before they were sent away on June 24th? June 24th was also important because at 7 pm that day we have evidence of the first confirmed targeting of a firearms owner in High River. Don and Jane White had their door-kicked in, their home ransacked and eleven trigger-locked long guns seized.

An e-mail obtained from the RCMP through another response to an Access to Information Act request dated June 24, 2013 from RCMP Superintendent Frank Smart states: “As of 1500hrs today, RCMP led by STO [Special Tactical Operations] have completed the physical search of all homes in High River(with the exception of a small amount in quadrant 8 which is underwater). Houses\Buildings 3,337 - Forced Entries 674 - People located 303.” Note: These were 303 residents who refused to leave their homes. So far no RCMP records show any person was rescued as a result of their door-to-door searches of 4,000 High River homes.

So it’s now clear that the RCMP Special Tactical Operations teams were also in High River searching homes, kicking in doors and seizing guns while the local RCMP officers were still in High River and “the physical search of all homes in High River” was already complete by June 24th. National Defence documents dated June 24, 2013 obtained through Access to Information Act requests also confirmed the emergency in High River was over: “No further danger to civilians (life and limb) and evacuations not requested.”

Staff/Sgt. Shardlow even questioned whether the “hard decisions” were “correct or not” at the September meeting; thereby, contradicting his own Commanding Officer’s written defense of the actions of all his officers deployed in High River during the High River flood. See K Division Commanding Officer Dale McGowan’s letter to the Alberta Property Rights Advocate dated August 16, 2013.

So what exactly were the “hard decisions” made by the RCMP on June 24th that resulted in the local High River RCMP officers being sent away so they wouldn’t come back to an “unhealthy environment”?

Was one of the “hard decisions” to kick in up to 1,200 more doors in High River after the RCMP said the searches were completed at 3:PM on June 24th and the Canadian Armed Forces ruled the emergency was over that same day?

Was one of the “hard decisions” to get the Canadian Armed Forces to help the RCMP with door-to-door searches after June 24th in what now looks like a law enforcement operation (an action that was strictly forbidden by the Minister of Defence and the Chief of Defence Staff)?

Was one of the “hard decisions” for the RCMP to specifically target honest gun owners and keep right on seizing firearms, ammunition, magazines, accessories, bows, knives, bayonets, etcetera right up to and including July 10th?

Was one of the ” hard decisions” to keep thousands of High River homeowners out of their homes using roadblocks (complete with spike belts)? Some residents were not allowed into their homes until almost the end of July. Why only in High River? Police in the many other evacuated Alberta communities were able to manage the emergency without resorting to roadblocks and kicking in doors?

Was one of the ” hard decisions” to lay criminal charges as a result of all these unwarranted searches and seizures? The RCMP response to my request for the number and type of charges laid as a result of these unwarranted searches and seizures: “The information requested is exempt in its entirety.”

And finally, who made these “hard decisions” that resulted in so many Charter of Rights violations, frustration and expensive repairs? Nearly one year later and all the people of High River have is more questions and no real answers. Pity.

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Dennis R. Young -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Dennis Young retired to Airdrie, Alberta in 2007 after working for 13 years on Parliament Hill for Garry Breitkreuz, MP for Yorkton-Melville. Dennis is a member of the Calgary RCMP Veterans Association and a Honourary Life Member of both the Canadian Shooting Sports Association and the National Firearms Association. For his 20-year crusade for the rights of firearms owners, Dennis received the NFA’s David A. Tomlinson Memorial Award for 2014 and the CSSA’s John Holdstock Memorial Award for 2014.

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