A Transit Police officer forgot explosive material on board an Air Canada jet after a sniffer dog training exercise in 2011 and failed to report it missing for two days, prompting an extensive search by authorities.
The incident, detailed in documents obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation through Freedom of Information, happened Jan. 12, 2011 on board a Boeing 767 at Vancouver International Airport.
The mock bomb is described in the released documents as a training sample that was inert because it had no blasting cap to detonate it.
The Transit Police dog handler realized two days later the bottle-shaped item was missing from his training kit.
Air Canada grounded the plane in Toronto and searched it 14 times but the device was never found and Transit Police concluded it must have been thrown in the garbage at YVR and burned at Metro Vancouver’s Burnaby incinerator.
Jordan Bateman, the CTF’s B.C. director, says public safety was jeopardized and tens of thousands of dollars wasted by multiple agencies in the search.
The CTF has repeatedly criticized the Transit Police and Bateman called it another example of the force trying to stretch beyond its expertise and jurisdiction, with bad results.
“Why on earth were Transit Police – responsible for SkyTrain lines – planting explosives on a commercial airplane as a dog training exercise?” he asked.
According to the documents, investigators asked that question and were told Transit Police were training at the airport to reach an RCMP standard for explosive searches, in case they were ever called in to assist on a search there.
Bateman called it a “ridiculous premise” and repeated his past calls to disband the $27-million-a-year Transit Police force.
“Any time a police explosive is outside the custody and sight of officers, it should be a concern to the public,” he said.
Transit Police spokesperson Anne Drennan said the dog handler resigned soon after amid the ensuing investigation and is no longer in policing.
“This was officer error,” she said. “He should have checked at the end of his training to see that the sample was in place. He didn’t and he didn’t check for 48 hours.”
Drennan called it a “very small” explosive sample that could not have gone off by itself.
“The general and travelling public were not at risk from this training sample,” she said. “There was no question of public safety here.”
Transit Police changed their protocol to require a log be kept of the dog handler’s training kit.
And Drennan said such samples can no longer be kept in unmarked containers – the missing one just looked like a wad of gum inside a small glass bottle. They now have labels indicating they’re to be returned to Transit Police.
Drennan said Transit Police now have just one explosive-sniffing police service dog and handler, instead of two, and the dog continues to train to the RCMP-set national certification.
The handler and dog no longer train on board commercial jets that are in service, she added.
“We train on retired aircraft at BCIT,” she said.