Sound reasons behind high-risk offender bulletins, police say

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Police say they weren’t focusing solely on the small community of Wabaseemong First Nation when they put out a high-risk offender bulletin last week about a man who had recently been released from Manitoba’s Stony Mountain Penitentiary.
“It was to let everyone know in the (Kenora) area, not just Wabaseemong,” Det.-Sgt. Doug MacKenzie, a provincial police officer seconded to Treaty Three Police Service, said Tuesday.
The subject of the bulletin is now living in Wabaseemong.
The 44-year-old man has a long history of convictions including manslaughter, sexual assault, aggravated assault, pointing a firearm, assault causing bodily harm, and break and enter, is
Wabaseemong, also known as Whitedog, is a community of 900 Ojibwa, about 80 kilometres north of Kenora.
Band councillors weren’t available for comment Wednesday, but some Wabaseemong residents told The Chronicle-Journal that by the time the bulletin came out, they knew the man had moved to the reserve and was living with his brother.
He’s on an undertaking and must abide by various conditions, including a curfew.
Under the Criminal Code and Ontario’s Police Services Act, police have the authority to release such bulletins if they feel a released convict is a high risk to re-offend.
But before police release bulletins about whom they consider to be dangerous offenders, they consult with the Crown.
“We have to get the green light from the attorney general,” said Mackenzie.
He said that in his experience working as a police officer in Winnipeg and Thunder Bay, most media outlets run the bulletins about high-risk offenders.
The Chronicle-Journal considers them on a case-by-case basis.
MacKenzie said he hasn’t received any negative feedback from Wabaseemong since the bulletin appeared, but admitted the man’s brother wasn’t too happy about it.
“He told me, ‘Why are you doing this? He’s served his time.’ ”
MacKenzie said when he picked up the subject at Stony Mountain, he “was polite and co-operative.”
“But I have reason to believe that he could commit another serious offence.”
Police are sometimes in a quandary about issuing bulletins about released offenders.
“What’s more important — an individual’s privacy, or the prospect that he might re-offend?” said retired Thunder Bay Police Chief Bob Herman.
Herman, currently Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service’s acting chief, said that during his nearly 12 years as the city’s police chief, he issued about half-a-dozen bulletins about offenders he believed would re-offend.
“Whenever you do it, the motivating factor is community safety,” he said.
“When you have the ability to take a preventative measure, you do it.”
Herman said offenders who were the subject of his force’s high-risk bulletins were notified in advance and, predictably, he said, “they weren’t happy about it.”
Some moved away from Thunder Bay, Herman said. In those cases, police attempted to find out where they’d gone and notified the appropriate authorities.
He said in recent years, Correctional Service of Canada has been proactive in letting police know about potentially dangerous convicts who are about to be released from jail.
In some cases, said Herman, released individuals have completed their sentences but, while they were in jail, showed little or no interest in taking anger management training, for instance, “or failed miserably.”
He noted that police can be sued for failing to notify the public that a high-risk offender has located to their neighbourhood.