RNC chief responds to findings that officers breached regulations

Josh Pennell
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Two officers mishandled interaction with autistic teenager, ruling states

RNC Chief of Police, Bill Janes, met briefly with the media today to respond to Monday’s decision by an adjudicator that two RNC officers breached multiple RNC regulations when they arrested and detained an autistic teenager in Mount Pearl in 2009.

”The RNC on a daily and weekly basis have thousands of interactions with members of the public and the vast majority of the times these things go very well. Unfortunately for Dane Spurrell, they did not go as they should've,” Janes said.

In April of 2009, Const. Lisa Harris — formerly Lisa Puddicombe — came into contact with then 18-year-old Dane Spurrell in Mount Pearl. The young man, who has autism, was accused of obstructing police officers when they mistakenly thought he was publicly intoxicated while walking home from a video store shortly after midnight. Dane was brought to the lock-up for the night and wasn’t allowed to make a phone call home, although he made several requests to do so.

A second officer, Const. Rodney Priddle, was also found to have breached RNC regulations.

A complaint was made to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Public Complaints Commission by Dane’s mother, Diane. The findings of a criminal investigation into the matter were sent to a special prosecutions branch at the Department of Justice. It was determined that no criminal charges against the officers were necessary.

The complaints commission investigation found that the officers had made mistakes but no sanctions against the officers were required. Diane took exception to that and appealed the decision. That was sent to adjudicator John McGrath.

To read the decision, CLICK HERE.

Janes said today that the discipline for the officers has not yet been determine, but will be done so by the adjudicator. He also said he had contacted the Spurrell family this morning.

“I again spoke this morning to Dane Spurrell and his mother and offered the apologies of the RNC for the missteps and mistakes of the officers in terms of how they addressed the issue,” Janes said. “I’m hoping this will bring some closure for the Spurrell family.”

On Monday, Diane spoke to The Telegram about possible sanctions fot the officers.

“I think one officer suffered immensely,” she said, when asked for her thoughts on the possibility of penalties. “I don’t want to see too much penalty added on to that. The other officer, I don’t think that officer should be working with the public. Whether that means that officer has to be reassigned, retrained or what have you, something needs to be done there.”

The officers have been found not guilty of using unnecessary force during the incident. Janes said since the 2009 incident, RNC officers have been given further training in identifying conditions such as autism, and also how to interact with people who have such conditions.

Related story, CLICK HERE.


This is a corrected version.


Organizations: Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Public Complaints Commission, Department of Justice

Geographic location: Mount Pearl

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Recent comments

  • Bob
    April 01, 2014 - 18:19

    The RNC is a big clique anyway.Always take care of their own first and foremost.They're servants of the public but most of them act like they're masters of the public.

  • Michael Richard
    April 01, 2014 - 14:21

    Wow the RNC has really changed! If this had to occur 20 years , im sure the boy would have been charged with assaulting 2 police officers and they would be getting promoted right now!

  • David
    April 01, 2014 - 13:52

    Quoting the reporter," ...they did not go as they should of,” Janes said.". I can't believe the Chief used bad grammar so I assume the reporter wrote "should of" . In anty case its bad grammar!

    • AndrewG
      April 01, 2014 - 19:49

      If you watch the interview he said "should've". "Should've" is a proper contraction of "Should have".

  • hslaw
    April 01, 2014 - 13:45

    Here is a case that is more to often coming to light. there needs to be a lot of mental health training ,. A person can only deal with what they understand when it comes to autism. But there is no reason what so ever to deny his right to call home and to belittle him. this the officer knows is wrong and should be taken to task. If something happened in my last profession. which was nursing licence would be gone and maybe this same officer would be investigating me. When it comes to not understanding the problems of this young man and not acting accordingly yes not accordingly accordingly is accepted but to lock him up be disrespectful and deny him his rights is unforgiveable