One of New Brunswick's top sheriffs got a warning from the RCMP last year about dangerous driving by some of his officers, just months after a sheriff's van crashed, leaving two officers and three prisoners injured, CBC News has learned.
Several sheriff vans had been caught on radar travelling at "inexcusable" speeds of up to 152 km/hr, an internal government email obtained by CBC shows.
In the email, Fredericton regional sheriff Keith Ball tells his "fellow sheriffs" that RCMP Sgt. Claude Tremblay, of J Division, paid him an "informal" visit on Sept. 26, 2012.
"He and his traffic team are not only concerned with the high rates of speed, but this coupled with the vehicles' high mileage, and for vans, the high centre of gravity, [and] our drivers' lack of high-speed driving training, a serious accident could easily arise," Ball states.
In addition, sheriffs had been observed committing other offences, such as talking on a hand-held cellphone while driving, he said.
"Sgt. Tremblay informed me that the RCMP have a zero tolerance for their own staff and several of their officers have been charged to date for speeding and other MV [motor vehicle] offences," said Ball.
"He came to me requesting that all our staff be warned that the RCMP will commence charging our staff should they be breaking the law."
RCMP have confirmed the information in the email is correct.
GPS units to be installed
Justice Minister Troy Lifford says he's not aware of the email.
But he told CBC News he plans to install global positioning system (GPS) units in all sheriffs' vans.
Such units could instantly notify officials in the department if a van on any highway in the province is speeding.
"I mean that's for not only the protection of our fleet, but also the protection of our sheriffs, the detainees that we transport all over the province, and the general public," said Lifford.
The minister has also asked for a review of all policies as they relate to sheriffs in the province.
A CBC News investigation into a sheriff's van crash has revealed the Justice Department has no policies about prisoner transport in inclement weather or the use of seat belts.
It also revealed the director of Sheriff Services had ordered employees to recall and delete any forwarded emails containing photographs of the wrecked van and to destroy any hard copies.
On April 23, 2012, a sheriff's van left Highway 11 during an icy storm and flipped at least three times down a hill. All five people on board were injured.
Two of the prisoners had serious injuries and are now suing the province.
One of the sheriffs, Natalie Doucet, who was in the passenger seat, says she was off work on medical leave for four months and is still suffering, more than 18 months later.
She says she sustained injuries to her back and pelvis, but a witness says that didn't stop her from leaping to assist the injured prisoners.
The sheriff's office wrote a letter of commendation to Doucet for her conduct that day, but she says she never received the letter and has been treated "like trash" by the provincial government.
She says she was let go in June.