Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pickton, ministers' willful blindness and dumping the RCMP

The Vancouver Police Department's internal review of the Robert Pickton investigation is grim reading.
Deputy chief Doug LePard sets out - over 400-plus pages - an unblinking look at the failures, mistakes and conflicts that allowed Pickton to keep on killing years after he should have been caught. Long enough, in fact, to have killed another 13 women.
The report was completed four years ago. It couldn't be released publicly then, as Pickton's jury trial wasn't concluded.
But the findings were so important, then Vancouver chief Jamie Graham tried to share the report with John Les, the solicitor general.
Les refused.
Last year, current Vancouver chief Jimmy Chu set out to alert the government once again. He offered Kash Heed, the solicitor general at the time, a copy of the report and a briefing.
Heed said no.
The ministers' almost identical responses said they didn't want to know about the report because the matter was before the courts.
That's ridiculous. Pickton's right to a fair trial would not be affected if the solicitor general, responsible for policing, read a report on problems with the investigation. There is nothing in the law or tradition that says government ministers must remain ignorant about serious public policy issues because a trial is underway.
Especially when their willful blindness puts the public at risk.
LePard's report sets out police missteps and failures. The Vancouver department was slow to take an interest in the reports that women were disappearing from Vancouver's rougher streets and refused to accept the evidence that serial killer was at work. Petty internal rivalries undermined efforts to investigate.
And the report concludes the fragmented policing structure in the Lower Mainland helped allow Pickton to keep killing. The victims were from Vancouver; the murders were on his farm in Coquitlam.
As evidence against Pickton increased, Vancouver police asked the Coquitlam RCMP to co-operate in a joint investigation. The Mounties said no.
The report found the RCMP detachment let the file languish for months and failed to move the investigation forward.
When the RCMP's provincial unsolved homicide unit became involved, its officers decided that the information from a key witness wasn't credible. But they had no reason for the decision, LePard notes. "Personalities or opinions about credibility without supporting evidence should never have derailed a murder investigation," he reports. "Neither that opinion nor the lack of resources in the Coquitlam RCMP detachment should have been sufficient to derail an investigation when the allegations were so serious."
The bizarre policing structure in the Lower Mainland - and in the capital region - have been identified as problems for years. Heed, as West Vancouver chief, called for a regional force to combat organized crime. (Les, as solicitor general, called Heed's boss, the mayor, to complain about the comments.)
Yet the government has resisted change. Surely, the report would have helped it make an informed policy decision.
At the same time, the government has been pushing ahead on a new 20-year contract with the RCMP for policing in the province. The current deal expires in 2012.
Again, surely the information in the report - which the ministers refused to read - should have been considered in that process.
The Vancouver police department review was released after Times Colonist reporter Lindsay Kines obtained a leaked copy. The government had hoped to stall release until next month. (Kines's work on the missing women with the Vancouver Sun and the Times Colonist has been an example of journalism at its best.)
That reporting forced acting Solicitor General Rich Coleman to promise some sort of review. The government had up until then refused to commit to an inquiry.
But Coleman dismissed the Vancouver police report as "finger-pointing." (Which suggests he could not have read it.)
It's just one side of the story, he said.
Perhaps the RCMP review of the investigation, completed eight years ago, does have other, useful information.
But it remains secret, which says much about the force's sense of its accountability to British Columbians.
Footnote: A shift away from the RCMP to a provincial force would be difficult. But the Mounties' problems have been well documented even before the failures in the Pickton investigation. Officers are employed, and rewarded or punished, by the national force, not by a provincial or municipal police department. They do not even accept the provincial police complaints process.


DPL said...

The horsemen believe they are above simple mortals.The reason we are stuck with them is they cost less than well trained police forces. Way back when, I was cleared to enter and leave a Commonwealth Conference in Vancouver due to my previous security clearances. Almost daily the Horseboys kept trying to wrestle control of things from the VPD. Big arguments about little things like speed bumps under the building. VPD won that little debate. They have not got better at being the para military force they used to be. The records speak for itself

Bookmonkey said...

Coleman, it shouldn't be forgotten, is a former mountie...

Anonymous said...

There was an article that mentioned that a Coquitlam RCMP officer was assigned to the case early in the investigation and he was doing excellent work on the file, but he was transferred out of the detachment - has anybody tried tracking this individual RCMP officer down yet?

His comments would be of interest.

kootcoot said...

"There is nothing in the law or tradition that says government ministers must remain ignorant about serious public policy issues because a trial is underway."

But there is something in the BC "Liberal" Party under Gordon Campbell that would like to have as much as possible in British Columbia "Sub Judice." Then of course they don't have to answer to anybody for anything and the looting of the province and overthrow of democratic process can continue un-impeded and unquestioned (at least not with questions that can be answered - "it's all before the courts, you know)!" If it isn't really "sub judice" saying it is works just as well with the lapdog press we are cursed with in B.C.

Anything to do with BC Rail, sorry, it's before the courts, Kash Heed and his questionable election - oops, it's (his underlings) before the courts, they even managed to have the anti-HST petition where they like stuff for a few days, before the courts - now they'll just stall the old way, by avoiding the Stonepile in James Bay like the plague.

And of course often in BC the courts aren't exactly open, being in camera or shrouded by publication bans, unless of course it is sensational like say a certain pig farmer guy - then the Sun had a daily feature, even when the trial was in recess.

Anonymous said...

Paul, I thought I read references in the police interviews of another serial killer abducting children at the same time as Pickton was operating? Maybe I've missed reporting on that, but I wonder what that was about, if that other person was caught, etc. DO you know anything more?

Unknown said...
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