P. 1
Forsaken: The Report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry - Vol 3

Forsaken: The Report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry - Vol 3

|Views: 26|Likes:
Published by Paisley Rae
VOLUME III – Gone, but not Forgotten: Building the Women’s Legacy of Safety Together
VOLUME III – Gone, but not Forgotten: Building the Women’s Legacy of Safety Together

More info:

Published by: Paisley Rae on Dec 18, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less





The VPD and the RCMP each provided detailed written submissions setting
out their current missing person policies and practices. Representatives
of these police forces also presented an overview of the current situation
during the Policy Forums. I found all of these submissions to be helpful, with
the oral submissions providing an important “on the ground” perspective.

The VPD’s policy forum submissions, Avoiding Future Tragedies: Improving
Investigations of Missing Women, provided an overview of changes made
since 2001 in how they investigate missing person reports. Many of these
changes involved increasing supervision; improving selection criteria for
offcers assigned to the unit, including the requirement for investigative
experience; requiring MCM training for inspectors and sergeants; increasing
front line and investigative resource levels; improving information retention
and fow; and amending policies pertaining to acceptance and investigation
of missing person reports.

At the Policy Forums, Chief Constable Jim Chu and Inspector Brad Desmarais
provided an oral overview of the changes to VPD missing person policies,
highlighting the changes in reporting, investigative and review practices.
As noted earlier, the VPD carried out an extensive audit of its Missing
Persons Unit in 2004 and has implemented all of the recommendations.
The VPD Missing Persons Unit is composed of one sergeant, two detectives,
one civilian coordinator and one liaison detective. Missing Persons Unit
offcers are specifcally chosen for their aptitude; VPD members spoke
about the importance of having the right people to work in the system. This
includes having the right manager: the sergeant managing the unit must
allow offcers to develop relationships with the community.

Additional reforms have been implemented since the audit. For example,
in February 2012, the VPD amended its policy to conform with the CACP
resolution set out above by acknowledging the heightened risks faced
by marginalized persons, including specifcally Aboriginal women and
children, and the barriers to reporting experienced by Aboriginal persons.
The policy defnes marginalized persons as including the homeless, those
with alcohol or drug addictions or mental disorders, sex trade workers, or
anyone who may be the subject of a cultural bias. At the policy forum, the
VPD stated that missing women from the DTES are now considered the
highest risk.

Patrol offcers now conduct the initial investigations of missing persons.
Once a missing person report is received, it will be reviewed by one of four
duty offcers who are assigned full-time to provide oversight within the VPD.

Forsaken: The Report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry


The duty offcer will ensure adequate resources are applied to the initial
investigation before the Missing Persons Unit is involved. For example, if
the missing person is a woman engaged in the sex trade in the DTES, they
will consider whether the absence is normal for her and will send an offcer
to WISH to determine if she has been seen. For ground searches, the VPD
will sometimes use the Search and Canvass Team and has access to an
RCMP helicopter if necessary. A photograph of the missing person will be
requested so police can immediately prepare a press release. The Missing
Persons Unit is also available to provide advice on initial investigations:
Missing Persons Unit investigators are frequently called out at night or
called to provide advice to patrol sergeants or duty offcers.

If the person remains missing, the fle is prepared and then transferred to the
Missing Persons Unit. However, missing person cases involving potential
foul play are immediately referred to the Homicide Unit.

The VPD ensures missing person investigations are regularly reviewed.
Outstanding missing person cases, those persons not found during the
initial investigations, are reviewed regularly, internally by supervisors and
the Homicide Unit and occasionally by external agencies. In addition, the
Inspector in Charge of the Major Crime Section is briefed every morning
on outstanding missing person cases; they are also discussed during the
morning meeting with the Chief Constable and VPD executive.

VPD Inspector Desmarais reported that missing person investigations are
proactive, with specifc and aggressive investigative techniques used.
Missing person investigations have one of the highest profles within the
VPD. The VPD has a 99.9 per cent solve rate for missing person cases;
in 2010, the VPD received 3690 missing person reports, of which three
remain outstanding; in 2012, the VDP received 3507 reports, of which
three are outstanding.

The VPD told the Commission that it will never turn away a missing
person complaint based on jurisdiction. If jurisdiction is unclear, the
VPD will investigate the report in the frst instance. A VPD regional duty
offcer may also discuss the case with an RCMP regional duty offcer to
determine jurisdiction. However, the VPD noted that there continues to
be jurisdictional challenges in the Lower Mainland. Under the current
approach, jurisdiction is determined where the missing person was last
seen: in a case where sightings of the missing person are continually
coming forward, jurisdiction may be transferred to various jurisdictions, as
the place the person was last seen changes. The VPD stated that in such
a case, jurisdiction continues to change without any police department
conducting a fulsome investigation.

Although the VPD has made many changes resulting from the missing
women investigations, Chief Constable Chu is concerned that other, smaller
police agencies may continue to make the types of mistakes made by the
VPD during the missing and murdered women investigations.


Volume III

In addition to providing information about the changes it has made since
2002, the VPD also made recommendations for potential improvements to
missing person investigations: improved legislation, a Regional Real Time
Crime Centre, and regional crime fghting. I discuss these recommendations
in Part 8.

The Government of Canada, for the RCMP, submitted written submissions
for the Policy Forums. The submissions provided a detailed overview of
the structure of policing in BC in addition to an overview of the RCMP’s
missing person and multiple homicide policies and practices, both in 1997
and currently, and the work of the BC Police Missing Persons Centre. At
the Policy Forums, RCMP offcers also provided an overview of the RCMP’s
current approach to missing person reports in the province, including
recent changes to policy.

The RCMP’s missing person policies have changed signifcantly in the
past two years; current policies are more comprehensive than they were
in the past. The current policy sets out detailed responsibilities of the
investigating member, supervisor and commander; the policy also outlines
a list of investigative steps and provides risk assessment tools to determine
the level of urgency and risk. Files are reviewed regularly and diary dates
are built into missing person fles. A supervisor conducts the frst level of
review during the acceptance and risk assessment of the report. When
the fle is transferred to a detective unit, accredited team commanders
review it to ensure the right strategies, management and resources are
employed. Policies dictate that fles must be reviewed after three to fve
days, and again after six to eight weeks. Reviews are conducted by more
experienced offcers who are new to the fle in order to promote early
recognition of gaps in the investigation and to suggest strategies. The BC
Police Missing Persons Centre also reviews high-risk fles, which is further
discussed below.

The RCMP also provided information about changes to risk assessment
protocols. All Lower Mainland detachments now use the same risk
assessment tool, frst implemented in Surrey, which triggers the response,
supervision and oversight of cases. All missing persons are considered
at-risk until demonstrated otherwise. The standard is that “foul play
cannot be ruled out,” which appears to be a higher threshold than where
foul play is suspected. High-risk missing persons include young people,
people involved in the sex trade, people with drug or alcohol dependency,
confrmed victims of abduction, victims of domestic violence, and people
with a risk of suicide or self-harm. Superintendent Paul Richards explained
that Aboriginal people are not considered high-risk; to consider them so
would be contrary to RCMP policies for bias-free policing.

In general, the RCMP policy now allows the engagement of specialized
detectives earlier in the investigation. High-risk cases can quickly transition
to major crime investigations. Medium or high-risk fles are transferred to

Forsaken: The Report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry


the Missing Persons Unit or Major Crime Unit.

Superintendent Jim Gresham advised the Commission that RCMP
detachments always accept missing person reports. On transfer to another
jurisdiction, fles will not be closed until the other police jurisdiction has
a clear understanding of its ownership, demonstrated through a paper
trail. He noted that the current basis for jurisdiction, where the missing
person was last seen, is sound because it is a reasonable place from
which to launch the investigation. He also stated that jurisdiction will not
repeatedly change in cases where the missing person is continually spotted
in a different jurisdiction; rather, the original department will hold the fle
and maintain liaison with the family. In determinations of jurisdiction, it is
rare that the BC Police Missing Persons Centre needs to be involved. The
Government of Canada’s policy forum submissions also indicated that the
RCMP must provide assistance when a reportee cannot report a missing
person to the appropriate agency.

During the Policy Forums, RCMP offcers also advised the Commission
about upcoming policy changes. These amendments include requiring a
debriefng of missing persons who are found, in order to gather intelligence
and determine why the person went missing, to promote prevention of
missing person incidents. In addition, there will be structural changes to
the command of investigations that will integrate all municipal, provincial,
and federal investigations under one command in certain situations, such
as when foul play cannot be discounted in a missing person investigation.
The RCMP is also introducing investigative service standards for all front
line offcers, standards that place greater emphasis on service to the

You're Reading a Free Preview

/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->