Canadian police hit by major computer network outage

The failure of a core computer network device prevented Mounties across Canada from accessing critical computer programs they need to do their jobs, such as the Canadian Police Information Centre central database, for about 12 hours.

'It's like flying blind,' 1 frontline RCMP officer said about computer outage

A major computer network failure left RCMP officers without access to key tools, including the CPIC database, for several hours Wednesday and Thursday. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The failure of a core computer network device prevented Mounties and other police agencies including the Toronto Police Service from accessing a critical computer program they need to do their jobs called the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database.

According to a statement from Shared Services Canada (SSC), the latest outage started around 11:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday and involved "routers supporting core IT networks and applications" for the RCMP.

It also affected mobile computer workstations in RCMP police cruisers and two other crucial internal RCMP databases, sources told CBC News.

"SSC and RCMP worked through the night to bring each application back online while testing for issues along the way. All network services and applications are now up and running," said the SSC statement, which was sent to CBC News at 3 p.m. ET.

CBC News has learned CPIC has gone down more than a dozen times since last spring. 

CBC News agreed not to report on today's network failure until it was over so the public would not be aware that frontline police were at a disadvantage.

"Shared Services Canada responded to the failure of a critical core network device that is impacting many RCMP systems," wrote France Bertrand, director of the RCMP's IT operations branch, in the first of two force-wide emails sent this morning.

"As a result of network issues, CPIC is unavailable for the majority of sites and CPIC messaging is unavailable for all sites," said Jason Sohm, another RCMP director in a second force-wide email.

CPIC is a crucial tool for all police officers and border guards, not just the RCMP. It allows them to check names for criminal records and warrants, receive warnings, search license plates and it also provides frontline police with criminal histories and warnings.

One officer told CBC News that working Wednesday night was "like flying blind."

Another said it was a "huge officer safety risk."

On Wednesday, CBC News reported on how the RCMP has been plagued with IT issues since Shared Services Canada took over its tech support.