Communication breakdown was to blame for a traffic stop during which an officer failed to stop a known sex offender who had allegedly abducted a child last month, an RCMP review concludes.
A man posing as a police officer is accused of snatching a 10-year-old girl from a mall in northeast Calgary on the evening of Feb. 24, and drove away with her in his vehicle.
An RCMP officer pulled the suspect over for a traffic violation on Highway 567 a short time later. But the frightened girl didn't say anything, and the man was issued a speeding ticket before being allowed to carry on.
A few minutes later the girl was dropped off unhurt in a restaurant parking lot in Airdrie, where she called for help.
John Francis Dionne, 43, a known sex offender with a history of violence against girls and women, was arrested the next day at his home in Linden, Alta., about 75 kilometres northeast of Calgary.
No disciplinary action taken
A review of the incident by officials with RCMP K Division in Edmonton concluded that a miscommunication occurred between the officer and an Operational Communication Centre (OCC) operator during the traffic stop.
The officer was told that the driver had been flagged for violence and that he was of "special interest to police." But according to the incident review, the officer did not hear the second part of that communication, nor did the operator elaborate verbally.
The operator then sent an electronic message to the officer's mobile workstation containing details, but it was not flagged as a high priority.
The operator's actions were inconsistent with standard procedures, the review said.
"In this case, the officer did his best given the information he possessed at the time. The review identified a miscommunication issue and the RCMP is committed to making sure it doesn't happen again," said Supt. Gary Brine.
Because he was not aware of the caution code for "special interest to police", the officer followed procedure correctly by only investigating the speeding offence, the review concluded.
But after he confirmed Dionne was the registered owner of the vehicle, the officer should have made more inquiries to establish whether the man's licence was valid, the review said.
To avoid a similar miscommunication from happening, the review recommends that it be standard procedure for an OCC operator to ensure that the details are received by the officer in cases where a caution about violence includes a "special interest to police" flag.
No disciplinary action is being taken against either the OCC operator or the RCMP officer, the force said.
Not civilian's responsibility: criminologist
A former Mountie now working as a criminologist called the RCMP's review self-serving.
Bill Pitt, a longtime police officer now at Grant MacEwan University, said the RCMP has training and personnel problems.
Pitt said he doesn't think it should be the responsibility of a civilian to determine if the officer heard what was said.
"What's the next thing? Did you eat your Wheaties for breakfast? I mean, it's absurd."