I think – or maybe hope – Vancouver Police leadership, taking an uncommon path, is trying to be forthright in its public dealing. Improvement in training and supervision is still needed as proved by the video of three callous officers on street patrol recently. Nevertheless, we see signs of Chief Jim Chu’s continuing determination to make improvements. Those could lead VPD to be one of the best police services anywhere although some might argue that bar is set remarkably low throughout the industry. (To see how low, read the New Orleans stories at ProPublica.)
Unlike Social Development Minister Rich Coleman, I don’t see VPD Deputy Chief Greg LePard’s internal review as a mere exercise in finger pointing. It is an unusually honest report, not an exercise in self-exoneration.
Paul Willcocks writes that VPD offered the report, written four years ago and released after serial killer Robert Pickton’s final appeal, to BC Liberal cabinet ministers involved in police issues. Inexcusably, the offer was refused. The provincial government apparently finds ignorance helpful in making policy and I suppose blank minds allow decision making to be less complicated.
The RCMP, pretending they’ve never heard of the Pickton case before now, stated only that they wished the VPD had not released the report publicly. So much for their claimed acceptance of a new level of accountability.
CTV evening news in Vancouver broadcast an excellent 5-minute report on the Pickton murder cases. The report was first aired in 2002 and stands as a damning document of police failures. Lisa Rossington was the reporter and it began with Lynn Frey, mother of a victim. The woman talked about her family’s dedication in searching while she also unsuccessfully sought assistance to find her missing daughter.
Cameras left the forlorn Ms. Frey on the streets in 2002 and cut to strutting press officers of the RCMP. They were announcing that “one of the largest coordinated police efforts in BC” had made an arrest “carried out quickly and peacefully” that day in 2002.
Frey mirrored both anger and sadness talking about how she heard stories from women on the street while she searched. They told her the missing women would never be found alive. “They’re gone.” She persisted in her investigation and learned that a pig farm 40-minutes from Vancouver was involved.
Mohammed Khogaini also heard stories of the pig farm killing fields as did Joyce Lachance. Both lost friends. Lynn Frey took her knowledge to the Vancouver Police. She called back months later and was told the VPD had investigated and there was nothing to be said. By then Pickton was well known to police. Two years before he had been seriously injured while attempting to murder a woman who survived to give police a full report. Charges against Pickton were laid but stayed because prosecutors did not trust a victim from the streets.
Coquitlam RCMP Sargent Mike Connor entered reports in the police data base and pressed for a larger investigation of Pickton. Vancouver Police profiler Kim Rossmo knew about Pickton as well but he was stymied by jealousies of colleagues who disliked scientific methodology. Through many years, the Vancouver Mayor minimized reports of the missing women and supported the views of senior VPD officers. No one at the top wished to admit to a serial killer or that the woman had done anything more than change addresses and lose contact with friends and family.
Doug Mackay-Dunn, VPD Sargent for the DTES was pressed by patrol constables for greater effort on the missing women files. Mackay-Dunn had asked Kim Rossmo to examine the statistics and that led to formation of a working group who believed a serial murderer was operating. That committee died because senior command officers dismissed the analysis.
Deborah Jardine, mother of another victim, filed an official complaint about the lack of investigation into her daughter’s disappearance. She said, “They did nothing, nothing at all.” It was years later before the pig farm became the subject of intensive searching. This was despite an additional report that a witness spotted a woman’s dead body at the Port Coquitlam farm.
Lynn Frey said authorities didn’t care because
“these sex trade workers were treated like garbage. . . But damn it, they’re human beings, they have feelings, they have emotions and they all have families that love them.”
The VPD claim to have learned from this sad, sad case. The RCMP and Criminal Justice Branch prosecutors prefer to say nothing. Enabling do-gooders on the DTES continue to call for richer social programs as if throwing cash into a cesspool will make it sweeter. Rich Coleman now says there will be some form of review. You can bet it will be limited because the Liberals are unwilling to fund a radical examination, especially when it involves self-examination.
The issues are many and some are near irresolvable human issues related to drug policy and addiction treatment, housing and social services, healthcare, education and employment. As Churchill might have said about social justice when associated with poverty and crime: It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.