New Brunswick

GPS units meant to slow speeding sheriffs turned off

After installing GPS programs on sheriff services vehicles to help slow the speeding habits of officers, CBC News has learned the Department of Justice turned off the software after two days of operation.

RCMP warned the Department of Justice that sheriffs had been observed driving at 'inexcusable speeds'

A sheriff's van carrying three inmates and two sheriff's officers in April 2012 slid off icy roads and rolled-over multiple times. (Department of Justice)

Three years after a sheriff van crash injured five people and a warning was issued by RCMP to a top sheriff to slow his officers down, the Department of Justice's solution to the problem is still not in place. 

Following a CBC News investigation into the crash which injured three inmates and two sheriffs officers, then-justice minister Troy Lifford told CBC News he'd made an order to have GPS units installed in the vehicle fleet. 

"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. 

Justice Minister Stephen Horsman, right, says his department is working to resolve the GPS issues. (CBC)
The system would send an automatic alert if the vehicle was being driven at excessive speeds.

The software was brought online, but deactivated again after two days "due to numerous issues," CBC News has learned.

Documents obtained through the Right to Information Act state the units were installed in February and March, 2014. The software was first activated on July 21, and deactivated on the July 23.

Justice Minister Stephen Horsman said in a letter to CBC News, "the department's efforts are still ongoing in order to resolve the technical issues of the GPS tracking software." 

Horsman was not available Wednesday to elaborate. 

'Inexcusable speeds'

During its investigation into the April 23, 2012, sheriff van crash, CBC News obtained a September 2012 internal email by a head sheriff warning officers to slow down.

The head sheriff said RCMP had clocked some sheriff vans at "inexcusable speeds" of 134 km/h, 147 km/h and 152 km/h.

He noted, "a serious accident could easily arise." 

GPS devices designed to track location and speed are widely used in the commercial trucking industry. Home devices, allowing parents to track their teenager's driving habits, can be purchased for less than $200 and installed in minutes. 

A monthly subscription fee is then paid to the manufacturer for software tracking and phone and email alerts that are sent immediately when certain speeds are exceeded.

The devices are required under the department's Sheriff Services transfers policy "as a mechanism to improve safety, verify incidents, and help improve asset use."

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