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Retired senior Mountie acknowledges “failures”, believes force better prepared

By Steve MacArthur Aug 23, 2022 | 8:32 AM

The former commanding officer of the RCMP in Nova Scotia was “stunned” when she first saw the replica cruiser used by the killer in the mass shootings more than two years ago.

Lee Bergerman is testifying at the inquiry examining the murders.

It was so authentic, the senior member of the force thought it was stolen.

Bergerman was first notified there was a situation in Portapique around 11 p.m. on April 18, 2020.

Gabriel Wortman had killed 13 people and escaped through a field in a replica police cruiser he had been building on his property in the rural community.

“I do recall being stunned when I saw the police car,” said Bergerman.

She called Chief Superintendent Chris Leather to find out more about the cruiser but was told all of the forces police cars had been accounted for.

Bergerman later found out the image of the replica cruiser she saw was given to the police by a relative of Wortmam’s common law spouse Lisa Banfield.

Police were burnt out

Bergerman spent 35 years on the force and retired shortly after the mass shooting in Nova Scotia, which claimed 22 lives.

She talked about the moral being low on the force following the tragedy and the need for more resources.

“There was a lot of burnout, we had a number of our key, senior people who were off duty sick,” Bergerman explained. “Some people were doing [the work] of three jobs.”

Bergerman believes there were “failures” and breakdowns in communication during the response, and in the way it was communicated the public.

She pointed to communication from dispatch to the members on the ground and the fact the scene in Portapique was not fully contained.

However, Bergerman called the initial response by the three RCMP officers who raced to the community and were faced with a chaotic scene “heroic”.

When asked if she felt the force was better prepared now to respond to a similar situation, Bergerman believes they are in a better position.

“When you look at improvements to radio communication, the Alert Ready System, those are now written into policy…I believe so,” she offered.

RCMP Commissioner Will Testify 

Bergerman will continue testifying on Tuesday morning and will be questioned by members of the Mass Casuality Commission. RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki will appear before the commission later in the day.

Lucki has been tangled in a political firestorm related to her actions in the days after the shootings in 2020.

It’s alleged she pressured investigating officers in Nova Scotia to release information about the five guns used in the shooting to help the federal government gain public support for gun legislation it was set to introduce.

She has denied those claims and has since apologized for her actions in the days following the shootings.

Meantime, Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella is expected to appear on Thursday.


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