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Forsaken: The Report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry - Executive Summary

Forsaken: The Report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry - Executive Summary

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Published by Paisley Rae
2012 Missing Women Commission of Inquiry Executive Summary
2012 Missing Women Commission of Inquiry Executive Summary

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Published by: Paisley Rae on Dec 18, 2012
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The missing women investigations were severely hampered by limited
and outdated policing systems and approaches, and by the lack of clear
standards. Both the LePard and Evans reports discuss these issues in great
detail, and the police participants see these problems as providing the
central explanations for the failures in the missing women investigations.

In my view, fve limitations in policing systems and approaches contributed
to the failed missing women investigations:

I. Inadequate missing person policies and practices;
II. The unacceptably slow adoption of MCM systems;

Forsaken: The Report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry


III. A parochial and silo-based approach to policing;
IV. Failure to develop and apply policing standards;
V. Poor or non-existent integration of community-based policing
principles in the approaches taken to the investigations.

Inadequate missing persons policy and practices

There was no provincial standard for missing person investigations during
the terms of reference, and this defcit has yet to be addressed by provincial
authorities. Both the VPD and the Government of Canada accept the fact
that their missing person policies were defcient in this regard from 1997 to
2002, although both agencies have taken major steps to clarify standards
applicable within their agencies in the intervening decade.

Notwithstanding the lack of detailed standards, the Government of Canada’s
closing submissions highlight the uniformity in approach taken by RCMP
detachments in missing person cases based on RCMP E Division policy. I
accept that the RCMP missing person policies were reasonable; although,
as I have concluded earlier, this policy was not followed systematically in
all of the missing women cases reported to RCMP detachments.

The VPD fully admits that the systemic problems in the MPU caused many
serious problems within the missing women investigations. As I noted at
the end of Part 3A, the systemic problems within the VPD MPU were fully
documented in an audit completed by Retired Insp. Schouten in 2004.
The Schouten Report found that there was an overall lack of resources,
lack of adequate training and oversight provided to the VPD MPU. It
concluded that there was generally little active investigation on fles not
cleared within the frst 48 hours and that the investigative steps taken were
not consistently documented. The report also identifed a need to develop
clear guidelines to determine when a suspicious missing incident becomes
a homicide investigation. All of these systemic defciencies compromised
the VPD MPU’s ability to effectively carry out its mandate to investigate
missing person reports and properly assess their level of risk. All of the
recommendations from the Schouten Report were implemented by the
VPD within two years.

I agree that the lack of established policies within the MPU on issues such
as investigative steps to be taken, the threshold for determining foul play,
and inter-agency cooperation and investigation enabled the exercise of
unstructured discretion in investigative decision-making and enabled a
level of inaction that was wholly unacceptable.

The systemic problems extended well beyond the VPD MPU. The
investigations were also severely circumscribed by a lack of systematic
means of sharing information about missing persons between policing
agencies. There was no oversight mechanism to look for anomalous
patterns of missing people, especially when they crossed jurisdictions. A
provincial standard is required to address these systemic inadequacies.


Executive Summary

Unacceptably slow adoption of MCM systems

It is trite to say that the police failure to follow MCM principles was caused
by the fact that neither the VPD nor the RCMP had formally adopted and
put into place MCM systems. I am mindful of the time required to fully
implement such a major shift in policing practices, especially bearing
in mind the training requirements and the need to develop the required
support systems. At the same time, provincial authorities and senior
management at the VPD and the RCMP were aware of the Bernardo
Review and its implications for major cases that had multi-jurisdictional
aspects, such as the missing women investigations. The police forces
cannot use the unacceptable delay in developing MCM standards as an
excuse for its failures. At a minimum, a full MCM system could have been
implemented for the missing women and Pickton investigations, as it was
by the VPD for the Home Invasion Task Force in 1999. My fnding in this
regard is especially important given that British Columbia still does not
have provincial MCM standards or a common province-wide ECM system.

Failure to develop and apply policing standards

We have been slow, in British Columbia, to adopt formal provincial
policing standards. There were no standards for MCM or missing persons
during the terms of reference and they still do not exist today. I conclude
that the lack of standards contributed to unacceptable disparities in the
individual missing women investigations and to the lack of accountability
that plagued the investigations in an overarching sense. Without standards,
there is no barometer for measuring performance and lack thereof. For
example, the lack of a standard for an automatic review of a stalled fle
contributed to the failure of internal accountability mechanisms.

A parochial and silo-based approach to policing

The VPD and RCMP made the classic mistake found in many serial murder
investigations: being parochial and not involving all of the agencies that
needed to be involved. The silo effect was also evident in the missing
women investigations. A signifcant lack of communication between
sections within the VPD and the RCMP caused compartmentalized
thinking and a lack of fow of ideas, knowledge and strategies. This silo-
based approach meant that the potential contribution of criminal proflers,
geographic proflers and patrol offcers were not effectively integrated into
the investigations.

Poor or non-existent integration of community-based policing principles

In 1994, in my capacity as Commissioner of the Inquiry into Policing in
British Columbia, I recommended the shift to community-based policing.
Community-based policing means real community involvement by the
police in a partnership with the community. I am extremely disappointed
to fnd that community-basing policing principles were completely ignored

Forsaken: The Report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry


in the missing women investigations. The police utterly failed to take
the problem-solving orientation and the proactive rather than reactive
approach, which are both key to true community policing models. The
missing women investigations demonstrate, yet again, the inherent
limitations of the traditional model of policing focused on “catching the bad
guy.” I saw no attempts at any stage of the missing women investigations,
the Coquitlam RCMP Pickton investigation, or in Project Evenhanded, to
develop collaborative partnerships between the police and the public.

Integrating a community-based approach into the missing women
investigations was the best, and perhaps the only, strategy available to the
police to protect potential victims and to catch Pickton. In my view, the
Vancouver Police Board could have played a more active role in correcting
the VPD’s failure to integrate a community-based policing approach. This
role is very much in keeping with the Board’s responsibility to set broad
policy direction rather than infuence actions at the operational level.

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