'All for ourselves and nothing for other people' seems in every age of the world to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. -Adam Smith "All the 'truth' in the world adds up to one big lie." Bob Dylan "Idealism precedes experience, cynicism follows it." Anon

November 29, 2011

Sexual harassment in the RCMP and the failure to catch a serial killer

Chain The Dogma    November 29, 2011

Sexual harassment in the RCMP and the failure to catch a serial killer 

Rogue Cops: A few bad apples or a rotten barrel? - Part 2

by Perry Bulwer

The previous post on this blog concerned corporal punishment of children as an abuse of authority. For four years, from June 2007 to June 2011, I archived news articles at Religion and Child Abuse News  related to another type of abuse of authority, namely religiously motivated child abuse, which sometimes includes corporal punishment. I archived well over 3000 news articles on the subject, which represents only a small fraction of such abuse that occurred around the world during that period. I am certain that if I had focused instead on another kind of abuse of authority that appears in news reports almost daily, a similar archive would contain at least as many articles. I am speaking of police misconduct, and I touched on the subject in a previous post, Rogue Cops: A few bad apples or a rotten barrel Part 1.

In that article I used a few examples, one from California and one from Ontario, to support my contention that police misconduct, whether it is outright criminal behaviour or unethical, unprofessional conduct, is often indicative of systemic problems. In other words, the problem is not confined to just a few rogue cops, or 'bad apples', as organizations often describe problem members rather than admit to systemic failures. The larger problem is that the barrel itself is rotten, which inevitably creates more rotten apples.

I realize now that the reference to a rotten barrel in the title of this article and its predecessor is somewhat ambiguous, since it could refer to either all of the apples in the barrel or the barrel itself. In the original article I did attempt to clarify what I meant by that reference, writing:

If he was a bad apple, so were his superiors, which suggests the entire barrel was rotten. There are just too many cases of police misconduct (I'm referring to the U.S. and Canada) for it to be a matter of a few corrupt cops. The problem is rooted in police culture and training.

To be more clear, what I mean is that it is the barrel itself, and the barrel makers that are rotten. Professor Zimbardo's classification of evil activity is instructive here: "... individual (a few bad apples), situational (a bad barrel of apples) or systemic (bad barrel makers)".

And if you think 'evil' is too strong a word to use in relation to police misconduct, consider Zimbardo's definition of evil in The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil:

Let's begin with a definition of evil. Mine is a simple, psychologically based one: Evil consists in intentionally behaving in ways that harm, abuse, demean, dehumanize, or destroy innocent others—or using one's authority and systemic power to encourage or permit others to do so on your behalf. In short, it is "knowing better but doing worse."

To abuse one's authority is to abuse the power, or perceived power, one holds over another, which is what misbehaving police do, and such abuse is evil. I think most people reading this blog will not need much convincing that police brutality is evil, but if you do need convincing just look at the photos in this article about a teen girl battered by a police officer in the back of a police car with two or three other police officers watching.

That the victim in that case is an Aboriginal woman in a town and province with a history of racist police misconduct ought not to surprise anyone. But police bigotry is not confined to race, as the current Missing Women Commission of Inquiry (the Inquiry)  is hearing from various witnesses. That Inquiry is examining the neglectful role of police forces, particularly the Vancouver Police and the RCMP, that enabled a serial killer  to continue disappearing and killing women, most of whom were street sex trade workers, for years after he was first identified as the prime suspect. I am very familiar with that case because I lived in the neighbourhood where many of the victims were working and disappearing from, and know all too well the disdain many police officers had for street prostitutes and their advocates. In fact, I told a parliamentary committee examining the issue of prostitution  how the police aided residents with the NIMBY attitude who organized to push prostitutes into a dark and dangerous industrial area, but that advocates such as the resident group I was working with were ridiculed and hampered in our efforts to protect women from the more dangerous aspects of street sex work.

While the police were still in denial that a serial killer was preying on vulnerable street workers, at least until he was finally arrested in 2002, those street workers and their advocates had every reason to believe the police were denying the obvious because of who the missing women were. The attitude of police, as well as many residents, towards street prostitutes and advocates trying to protect them from harm was the same attitude now being exposed by an RCMP whistleblower who has made damning allegations of sexual harassment within the RCMP  as well as claiming that police indifference towards the missing women  led to the bungling of the case and more murdered women. As I told that parliamentary committee, for example, at several meetings on this issue held in community policing offices in my neighbourhood I and other advocates were sometimes prevented from speaking and ridiculed by name calling such as "hooker huggers" (like environmentalists who are called "tree huggers"). I personally wore that as a badge of honour since I think trying to save a human is at least as noble as trying to save a tree, but the point is that name calling like that is intended to denigrate the other, to demean them, to dehumanize them, which is evil. And now the Inquiry has heard evidence from "... Vancouver police Deputy Chief Doug LePard, author of a 2010 report  critical of the Vancouver Police Department and RCMP, [who] admitted that former Vancouver deputy police chief John Unger referred to the dozens of missing women as “just hookers.""

That misogynistic, sexist attitude of the police regarding the dozens of missing women was not just confined to street sex trade workers. The RCMP whistleblower, Cpl. Catherine Galliford, who was the RCMP spokeswoman on the missing women investigations, has blown the door wide open on sexism and sexual harassment inside the RCMP. She has filed a formal complaint over 100 pages long with the RCMP, is planning to sue the RCMP, and will testify in 2012 before the Inquiry. Here is what Galliford has said about the sexual harassment she faced:

"Everything that came out of his [a supervisor's] mouth was sexual," Galliford said. "If I had a dime for every time one of my bosses asked me to sit on his knee, I'd be on a yacht in the Bahamas right now."

Galliford says she faced constant sexual advances from several senior officers from the moment she graduated from the RCMP Academy in 1991.

She outlines years of harassment in a 115-page internal complaint that the RCMP has yet to respond to, including allegations a supervisor on the Missing Women's Task Force lied to colleagues when he said they were intimate and that he even exposed himself to her.

"He said, 'I have something to show you' ... and pulled out an appendage. He wanted to show me his mole because he wanted to know if I thought it was cute," she said.

"I said, 'Let's go back to the office. We're late. Put it back in your pants.'"

According to Galliford, a supervisor on the Air India Task Force was even more direct.

"One of my bosses kept trying to be intimate with me throughout my time on Air India and kept on taking me on the road trying to have sex with me," she said.

"We don't have any new information to share with the Air India families right now, so why are we going on this trip? And no one said anything, but it was because he wanted to give the perception that we were a couple."

Galliford says the command and control structure at the RCMP means Mounties are instructed to do as they're told, or risk getting reprimanded.

"If they can't screw you, they are going to screw you over. And that's what it became like and so I started to normalize the harassment because I didn't know what else to do," she said.

"It just got to the point that after I had about 16 years of service, I broke. I completely broke."

In 2007, Galliford joined the ranks of 225 B.C. Mounties who are currently off duty on sick leave.

Obviously, her lengthy complaint contains many more details, but that brief account is enough to reveal a disgusting environment of sexism and abuse of authority. It is that kind of environment I refer to when I write of rotten police culture. Cpl. Galliford has also revealed some details of her planned testimony  before the Inquiry, exposing the indifferent attitude of police officers investigating the missing women case:

Cpl. Catherine Galliford, who was the RCMP spokeswoman on the Air India and Pickton investigations, said Thursday that police could have obtained a search warrant for convicted serial killer Robert Pickton years before they arrested the B.C. pig farmer.

She said she's read a 1999 Coquitlam RCMP file that nobody seems to be able to locate now.

RCMP Sgt. Peter Thiessen responded in a written statement, noting it would be inappropriate to comment on anything related to the inquiry.

"You know what? I'm not an armchair quarterback, I'm not," said Galliford. "Never have and never will be. But the minute I read that file I could have put everything together for another search warrant and nothing was done. It was concluded.

"I have to be very careful about what I say right now," she added. "I'm sure that when I testify on behalf of the missing women inquiry, I'll be able to be more forthcoming."

Galliford said the file she read included information that would have allowed police to obtain a search warrant for Pickton's farm.

She said the file had been "purged" from a 1997 file, noting a purge takes place when a file is too big so the information inside is carried over to another year.

"You had a lot of other potential suspects, but in this certain file, we had enough for another search warrant. He wasn't a potential suspect. He was a suspect and there is a difference in the police world."

Police consider a person a suspect, said Galliford, when they have found evidence and can put the person at the scene of a crime.

"At that time in the investigation, Pickton was the only one," she said. "There were potential suspects, but Pickton was the only suspect."

Cpl. Galliford places the blame for that failure of police to connect the dots, stop the killer sooner and save lives squarely on police indifference, in other words on police culture:

 Galliford says she saw numerous problems inside the investigation, including investigators who were more interested in padding their paycheques and drinking alcohol than catching a serial killer.

"They would break between noon and 2 p.m. PT to just drink and party and go for lunch, but then they would go back to work on Friday and claim double-time," she said Wednesday.

"There was a police indifference and that, I believe, is why it went on for so long [to catch Pickton], and why so many women lost their lives."

The indifference of the police towards the missing women -- denying a serial killer was on the loose; denigrating the missing women as "just hookers"; neglecting to follow up solid leads and making connections that were obvious to citizens and their own spokesperson -- is directly related to the misogynist attitudes directed at and exposed by Cpl. Galliford. If you have any doubt about that, consider these cruel comments that she was subjected to by fellow officers:

At Pickton’s trial, eyewitness Lynn Ellingsen gave key testimony that she saw Pickton hang a woman from a meat hook in his barn and gut her.

Ellingsen and Pickton had picked up the woman, whom Ellingsen believes was Papin, earlier that night in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

RCMP Cpl. Catherine Galliford, who was the spokeswoman for the Missing Women Vancouver police and RCMP Task Force, revealed in an interview Tuesday with the Vancouver Province, and in a 115-page statement, that male officers told her they had a “fantasy.”

“They fantasized about Willie Pickton escaping from prison,” Galliford said in her statement to RCMP Insp. Paul Darbyshire and RCMP Supt. Dave DeBolt.

“He would escape from prison, track me down, strip me naked, hang me from a meat hook and gut me like a pig,” Galliford told the Vancouver Province.

Galliford, who emphasized she knows many police officers who cared deeply about the missing women, said only one other officer in the roomful of men seemed as shocked and horrified as she did.

At the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry on Wednesday, Vancouver police Deputy Chief Doug LePard, author of a 2010 report critical of the Vancouver Police Department and RCMP, admitted that former Vancouver deputy police chief John Unger referred to the dozens of missing women as “just hookers.”

What Cpl. Galliford reveals about the sexist attitude within the RCMP as well as the misogynistic indifference of those investigating the missing women case is beyond rotten and disgusting, it is truly evil. RCMP culture is rotten to the core if a room full of male officers can dehumanize a female officer with images of the gruesome slaughter of a serial killer's victim while laughing about it. If that is the attitude RCMP officers and their superiors have towards their own female members, then it is no surprise at all that their indifference and neglect in the missing women case led to the murder of more women. There is a direct link between sexual harassment within the RCMP and their failure to catch a serial killer of women. It turns out that many female RCMP officers have something in common with their sisters working the street. Apparently, some male officers and bosses do not discriminate when it comes to sexual bigotry, degrading women regardless of whether they wear a uniform or work the street.

In Part One of this article I used examples from both Canada and the U.S. to illustrate my contention that the problem with all police forces in those countries is not that there a few bad apples, or even a barrel of bad apples, but that the barrels themselves are rotten. My opinion that police culture is corrupt is informed partly by personal experience, but mostly through media accounts, not through any comprehensive investigation of policing issues. However, I think it is a conclusion easily reached by any casual observer of such matters. Nevertheless, I will give the final word regarding corrupt police culture to an insider who knows a thing or two about policing. Norm Stamper is a former Seattle police chief and outspoken board member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). He is also author of Breaking Rank: A Top Cop’s Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing and he recently wrote an article for The Nation magazine titled "Paramilitary Policing from Seattle to Occupy Wall Street." He is an expert in these matters and he confirms my conclusions regarding rotten barrels. In a Democracy Now interview Stamper notes:

"There are many compassionate, decent, competent police officers who do a terrific job day in and day out. There are others who are, quote, 'bad apples.' What both of them have in common is that they 'occupy,' as it were, a system, a structure that itself is rotten. And I am talking about the paramilitary bureaucracy."

And in his article in The Nation he writes:

I’m convinced it is possible to create a smart organizational alternative to the paramilitary bureaucracy that is American policing. But that will not happen unless, even as we cull “bad apples” from our police forces, we recognize that the barrel itself is rotten.

UPDATE: December 10, 2011 

On December 8, 2011, Bob Paulson was officially sworn in as the RCMP's 23rd commissioner. He announced several 'get tough' measures to deal with sexual harassment allegations within the force. While they are positive steps which will help to prevent or properly punish future incidents, Paulson's quick dismissal of historic abuses and injustices calls into question just how serious he is at getting to the systemic roots of the problem.

He claims that discipline and accountability will be key under his watch, yet he appears to be avoiding any accountability for one particularly egregious case. It involves accusations of assault and sexual harassment by four female colleagues of Sgt. Robert Blundell in the late 1990s. Retired RCMP superintendent Ian Atkins conducted an internal review at the time, investigating how the case was handled. His conclusion then, and today, is that Blundell should have been fired. And a lawyer who was hired by the RCMP to prosecute Blundell in an internal hearing revealed recently that she was shocked when an RCMP superintendent flew in to negotiate a deal with Blundell. In the end, Blundell was only ordered to take counselling and fined one day's pay. He was later promoted.

In a media scrum after his swearing in ceremony, as well as in his first formal TV interview, Paulson said, "I like to think the Blundell case has been resolved," and that he didn't want to debate the decision. But the thing is, the case is not resolved for Blundell's four female colleagues who never received justice for the personal and institutional abuse they suffered, nor is the case resolved for the public or the RCMP because an injustice like this, committed by the very people whose duty it is to uphold justice, brings disrepute to not just the RCMP but the entire legal system.

Further media updates to this story, including coverage of the missing women inquiry and RCMP harrassment cases, will be added to the comments section below.

Related articles on this blog:

Rogue Cops: a few bad apples or a rotten barrel? Part 1

Aboriginal Teen May Be Charged with Assaulting RCMP Officer With Her Face

Constitutional expert says beware of coming Canadian police state




  1. B.C. Mountie files harassment suit against force. Court documents allege harassment, workplace of 'fear and control'

    by CBC News December 6, 2011

    Another B.C. Mountie has come forward with damaging allegations against the national police force.

    Cpl. Elisabeth Couture has filed a lawsuit against her superiors, complaining harassment pushed her to take stress leave.

    In court documents filed Dec. 1, Couture alleges the trouble started when she was promoted to the RCMP's Drugs and Organized Crime Awareness Service in 2009. The unit consists of a team of corporals stationed throughout B.C. who are responsible for coordinating and training police officers in dealing with drugs and organized crime.

    Couture claims contact between co-workers was discouraged, all conversations between colleagues had to be approved in advance by management and was warned against so-called "rumour-mongering."

    Emails, phone calls monitored
    The documents go on to say "chit chat" was strongly discouraged, and Couture was asked not to extend morning greetings beyond a basic "Hello." Couture also claims she was called "too wordy" and told to communicate with her superiors in one minute or less.

    She claims she was discouraged from leaving the office for lunch unless she went with a superior, discouraged from drinking socially and says her emails and phone calls were monitored.

    At one point, Couture alleges, she was told how other corporals not conforming to the unit's expectations were disciplined —and "understood the conversations as a threat."

    Couture says the atmosphere of "fear and control" pushed her to the breaking point, and she started experiencing "daily symptoms of anxiety and panic upon arriving at work, including heart palpitations, sweating and clammy hands." The documents say she had to breathe deeply in order to calm herself before entering the office.

    The documents say Couture went off duty sick on Sept. 15, 2010, after experiencing "a panic attack and high anxiety while en route to work," and say she remains off duty and is unlikely to return.

    The RCMP has not yet filed a statement of defence.

    Harassment not tolerated
    Last month, several B.C. Mounties came forward with allegations of harassment inside the force.

    Both Catherine Galliford and Krista Carle told CBC News they were subject to sexual harassment at the hands of their superiors.

    Galliford also made several claims about the investigation into serial killer Robert Pickton, saying the investigators were indifferent.

    The claims prompted Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and new RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson to ask for an investigation into harassment allegations at the national police force.

    Paulson warned RCMP supervisors to deal swiftly with allegations of harassment involving female officers.

    Paulson said blatant harassment won't be tolerated, and he wants supervisors to take quick action to deal with allegations of improper treatment of female staff in their detachments.


  2. Mountie in harassment probe 'probably' should have lost job

    CBC News December 8, 2011

    An RCMP officer accused of assaulting and sexually harassing four female colleagues in the late 1990s probably should have been dismissed from the force, a retired superintendent who reviewed the cases says.

    In an exclusive interview with CBC-TV's The Fifth Estate, Ian Atkins, who conducted an internal review of how the cases were handled by the RCMP, said that had he conducted a hearing and believed the accused officer, Sgt. Robert Blundell, was dishonest, "I would seriously consider dismissal."

    Asked by The Fifth Estate's Gillian Findlay if he thought that's what should have happened, Atkins said: "In this case? Probably yes."

    But Atkins's mandate did not allow him to make that kind of judgment. After the women launched a lawsuit in 2003, the RCMP ordered an internal review of how their cases had been handled.

    In his first television interview, new RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson told The Fifth Estate that he didn't want to debate the decision.

    "I like to think the Blundell case has been resolved."

    But Paulson did say that under his watch, discipline and accountability would be key.

    "I'm committed to that," Paulson said. "We today agreed, the commanding officers — and I've given instructions to them to go forward and make that live, so that's going to be happening."

    The four female officers who complained worked for Blundell on undercover investigations in Calgary from 1994 to 1997. They all have similar stories of being assaulted.

    Victoria Cliffe, one of the four women, told The Fifth Estate that after an undercover operation at a bar, where they had both been drinking, Blundell said they had to share a room at a hotel because the hotel was booked.

    "I woke up and Rob was all over me. He had his hands in my clothes, under my clothes," said Cliffe.

    "I was in the scenario," said Krista Carle, another complainant, describing her undercover operation with Blundell. "I didn't want to blow the operation. I didn't want to turn around and slap him in the face or turn around and say, 'Get your hands off me!' I just basically froze."

    Carle, who graduated from the RCMP's training academy in 1991, is now off the job and says she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

    The women kept the allegations secret for years. But when they finally did come forward, they say they were shunned by RCMP colleagues and badly served by the force's internal review process.

    During the initial RCMP internal hearing based on the complaints of one of the female officers, Blundell denied that he had assaulted the women in any way. He was acquitted.

    But as a second hearing on two of the other complaints was about to get underway, Blundell admitted to "discreditable conduct" which included "touching private areas" on top of the clothing of one of the women and "grabbing" the breast of another.

    In return for admitting to lesser charges, Blundell was allowed to cut a deal: a reprimand and docked one day's time off.

    "When I walked out of that courtroom, I don't think anything more would have surprised me," Cliffe said.

    "It was dealt with and it was a done deal and nothing was going to change," she said.

    The case was eventually settled in 2007 with all parties agreeing to keep the terms of the settlement secret.

    Blundell was eventually promoted.

    The Fifth Estate asked to speak to Blundell about the allegations against him. He declined the request but sent a statement from his lawyer denying the women's claims.


  3. RCMP commissioner targets 'outrageous conduct'

    CBC News December 8, 2011

    The RCMP's new boss says dealing with sexual harassment allegations within the force involves "changing behaviours."

    Bob Paulson says senior leaders in the force have held a two-day meeting about recent allegations and set up a process to track how complaints are being handled.

    Paulson, officially sworn in Thursday as the RCMP's 23rd commissioner, said there will be "no presumption of innocence" in disciplinary proceedings involving abuse.

    He said commanding officers can suspend officers engaged in "outrageous conduct" immediately, taking their badges and guns away, before a formal disciplinary process is launched.

    He also pledged to promote more female officers to the senior ranks of the RCMP.

    The measures announced by Paulson drew praise from the female officer who raised the allegations of harassment within the RCMP publically in an interview with CBC News last month.

    Catherine Galliford, a former B.C. RCMP spokesperson who is on leave from the force, said she backs Paulson's decision to suspend officers accused of serious misconduct.

    "He is sending a message and trying to be very hardline, saying this is no longer appropriate within the RCMP," Galliford told CBC News Network in an interview Thursday.

    Paulson's promise to get tough on male officers accused of harassment will ensure those men can't just get transferred to another detachment as in the past, Galliford said.

    Galliford also lauded Paulson's vow to ensure more women are promoted to senior positions.

    "Female police officers have so much to offer and they've been kind of minimalized," Galliford said.

    Galliford said she trusts that Paulson knows he has to tackle the Mounties' "old boys' network."

    "Do I think it is going to be very hard for him to make changes? Absolutely, because the RCMP is still very archaic and people within the RCMP are very entrenched in their culture, the way they've been trained, they way they've learned how to do things," Galliford told CBC News Network. "But I think Comissioner Paulson is on the right track."

    A ceremony in Ottawa Thursday morning formally marked the change of command to Paulson from William Elliott, the national police force's first civilian commissioner.

    Elliott retired last summer and has taken a job at Interpol.

    The government selected Paulson from inside the force — he has been with the RCMP since 1986.

    Early career in the military
    He got his start in the military, first as a young army cadet, and served in the Armed Forces for seven years, flying single-engine jets.

    But he had also applied to the RCMP.

    "It was always something that interested me, so I came back to it when I had the opportunity," Paulson told The Canadian Press.

    Beginning in 1986, Paulson served for 19 years throughout British Columbia, working on unsolved murders, aboriginal and community policing, and organized crime probes.

    "When I joined this force, it fit like a glove. And I've been in love with it ever since.

    "I like to consider myself a good investigator. I loved that. Because it was tangible, it was clear. And you could interact with people and get evidence."

    He came to Ottawa headquarters in 2005, climbing the executive ladder through a series of posts, most recently deputy commissioner for federal policing.

    As he takes over, the RCMP faces a number of challenges.

    Paulson wants to assure Canadians that he is conscious of the power the national police force wields.

    "The path to trust and public confidence in police is squarely on that little line. How we do what we do is vitally important. And so I just want people to know that I get that."


  4. Lawyer 'stunned' RCMP brass came in to settle harassment case

    CBC News December 9, 2011

    A B.C. lawyer hired by the RCMP for an internal hearing for a Mountie accused of sexually harassing and assaulting two female colleagues in the late 1990s says she was surprised a senior RCMP official was brought in to resolve the issue.

    "I was stunned, absolutely stunned. And I remember thinking, like what are you doing here? Why are you here? And I was actually, to be honest with you, angry," said Jennifer McCormick.

    The two female officers who complained had worked for Staff Sgt. Robert Blundell on undercover investigations in Calgary between 1994 and 1997.

    In 2001, McCormick was brought in by the RCMP to prosecute Blundell after he was acquitted in the first RCMP internal hearing into his conduct. At that hearing, involving one of four female complainants, Blundell denied he had assaulted the woman in any way.

    As a second hearing involving two other complainants was about to get underway, McCormick said the RCMP's then-superintendant Peter German unexpectedly flew in to Calgary to help negotiate a deal.

    German got Blundell to admit to "discreditable conduct," which included "touching private areas" on top of the clothing of one of the women and "grabbing" the breast of another.

    Blundell was ordered to take counselling and docked one day's time-off.

    But the deal was controversial and a review was done by then-superintendent Ian Atkins, who wrote a 114-page report.

    Atkins told The Fifth Estate that German had a lot of credibility and experience. But Atkins said he wasn't happy with how the issue was settled.

    "The two complainants would say 'Absolutely no, it was not helpful to justice.' I believe that the outcome was lighter than it should have been," he said.

    Atkins said had he conducted a hearing and believed the accused officer, Blundell, was dishonest, "I would seriously consider dismissal."

    Two of the complainants have told The Fifth Estate that they were let down by how the RCMP handled the case.

    "That seems to be the way of the RCMP, that's kind of like the toothless tiger. There's never any accountability," said Victoria Cliffe, one of the four complainants.

    Cliffe, who still works for the RCMP on Vancouver Island, said the hearings failed her and the other women. She said the experience struck deep in her fundamental beliefs as a police officer.

    "There's nothing that's changed here that's going to change what happened to me or is going to help change or ... will happen to anybody tomorrow. Everything that failed in our process is still there to fail again. There's nothing to change that."

    But new RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson has promised big changes to the way the force's members are disciplined.


  5. UN will conduct inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada


    Press Release - For Immediate Release

    Ottawa, ON (December 13, 2011) - UN will conduct inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada

    (Ottawa) The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has decided to conduct an inquiry into the murders and disappearances of Aboriginal women and girls across Canada. The Committee, composed of 23 independent experts from around the world, is the UN's main authority on women's human rights. The Committee's decision was announced Tuesday by Jeannette Corbiere Lavell, President of the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC), and Sharon McIvor of the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA).
    The inquiry procedure is used to investigate what the Committee believes to be very serious violations of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. In January and in September 2011, faced with the continuing failures of Canadian governments to take effective action in connection with the murders and disappearances, FAFIA and NWAC requested the Committee to launch an inquiry.
    Canada has signed on to the treaty, known as the Optional Protocol to the Convention, which authorizes the Committee to investigate allegations of "grave or systematic" violations of the Convention by means of an inquiry. Now that the Committee has formally initiated the inquiry, Canada will be expected to cooperate with the Committee's investigation.
    "FAFIA and NWAC requested this Inquiry because violence against Aboriginal women and girls is a national tragedy that demands immediate and concerted action," said Jeannette Corbiere Lavell.
    "Aboriginal women in Canada experience rates of violence 3.5 times higher than non-Aboriginal women, and young Aboriginal women are five times more likely to die of violence. NWAC has documented the disappearances and murders of over 600 Aboriginal women and girls in Canada over about 20 years, and we believe that there may be many more. The response of law enforcement and other government officials has been slow, often dismissive of reports made by family members of missing women, uncoordinated and generally inadequate."

    "These murders and disappearances have their roots in systemic discrimination and in the denial of basic economic and social rights" said Sharon McIvor of FAFIA.
    "We believe that the CEDAW Committee can play a vital role not only in securing justice for the women and girls who have died or disappeared, but also in preventing future violations, by identifying the action that Canadian governments must take to address the root causes. Canada has not lived up to its obligations under international human rights law to prevent, investigate and remedy violence against Aboriginal women and girls."
    "The Committee carried out an inquiry into similar violations in Mexico five years ago and we expect the process will follow the same lines here in Canada," said McIvor.
    "Mexico invited the Committee's representatives to make an on-site visit and during the visit the representatives interviewed victim's families, government officials at all levels, and NGOs. The Committee's report on the inquiry spelled out the steps that Mexico should take regarding the individual cases and the systemic discrimination underlying the violations. Mexican women's groups say that the Committee's intervention helped to spur Government action and we hope to see the same result here in Canada."


  6. Aboriginal ex-Mountie recalls racism, harassment

    CBC News December 20, 2011

    Transformed, triumphant and determined are all words that could be used to describe Marge Hudson, a former RCMP officer who said she faced racism and discrimination in the force.

    Hudson was the first aboriginal female RCMP officer in Manitoba. So she had to break two barriers.

    "I represented the RCMP and served Canada…. I'm proud to do that," she told CBC News in an interview.

    After she joined in 1979, Hudson became the poster girl for in the male-dominated institution.

    But she said during her 30 years on the force, she experienced harassment and watched others get promoted over her.

    The RCMP's commanding officer in Manitoba, Assistant Commissioner Bill Robinson, said he has only ever heard good things about Hudson.

    "The communities, quite frankly, loved her. They loved her approach, they liked the way she handled herself," he said.

    But it was what Hudson heard that tainted her early experience in the RCMP.

    "I could hear the male members talking about me, you know, like, saying, 'Well, I would do her.' 'Why don't you go ahead and do her?'" she said, tearing up while recalling it.

    Hudson said she started out as a special native constable and eventually moved up to regular constable, but she never moved beyond that position, while fellow non-aboriginal officers climbed the ranks.

    "Am I brown, is that the reason? Am I female, is that the reason? I had two shots against me right there — being aboriginal, being female," she said.

    "We were the ones out there to serve and protect, and faithfully, that's what I did. But where was my protection? The RCMP eat their own."

    Once, she was encouraged to drop a complaint so that she would not be transferred.

    The stress manifested itself in her weight gain, and Hudson said her heaviest weight was 330 pounds by 2003.

    She hit her breaking point in 2009.

    "I had it with this organization, this outfit and the bullying and all this sh-t. I don't need this," she said.

    She says she quit but the RCMP classified her departure as a retirement.

    Robinson, who said he is not aware of racism being a problem in the RCMP, said this is the first time he has ever heard of Hudson's allegations against the force.

    "I would have seen her in a minute" to talk about the issues, he told CBC News.

    But when he was told that Hudson was denied an exit interview when she left the force, Robinson said, "I can't comment on that. I don't know who would've denied her that."

    While racism might be an issue that has not hit the headlines in recent years, the claims of sexual harassment and other misconduct have recently become well documented even being raised in the House of Commons.

    Cpl. Catherine Galliford, who was the face of the B.C. RCMP for years — announcing the arrest of Robert William Pickton and revealing charges laid in the Air India bombing — has filed an internal complaint that makes serious allegations about misconduct inside the RCMP.

    Since Galliford spoke out, more members of the RCMP have come forward with serious allegations of harassment.

    And it's not only female members. Alberta RCMP Sgt. Jerry Hoyland has complained about 26 separate incidents of alleged harassment, but said he got only grief for his trouble.

    As for Hudson, she has tried to move on from her Mountie days. She has burned most of the photos and other remnants of that time.

    "I burnt it because, like, it's not who I am. I got rid of the extra baggage that I was carrying," she said.

    Not only has she relieved herself of both the weight of that career, but also her physical weight, dumping 200 pounds in four years.

    "I love me. I like who I am," she said.


  7. RCMP lawsuit may be joined by dozens of women

    'Broken families' and 'broken careers' tied to harassment on job, lawyer says

    CBC News December 20, 2011

    At least 25 current and former female RCMP officers say they are seeking to join a possible class-action lawsuit against the force for alleged mistreatment on the job.

    Lawyer Alexander Zaitzeff, of Thunder Bay, Ont., who is building the case with six other lawyers in Ontario and B.C., said he's heard from Mounties in every province with stories to tell.

    "Constant terrible bullying, a hateful work environment, a tough place to actually show up and do your job, all the way to sexual assaults," Zaitzeff said Tuesday. "That's the gamut."

    Vancouver lawyer David Klein said he is also hearing from potential plaintiffs and said the suit will likely be filed in B.C. early in the new year, and could ultimately seek millions of dollars in damages.

    "Money isn't going to bring back someone's health. Money is not going to bring back a family or a broken career," said Klein. "Money is part of it, but it certainly isn't what the case is all about."

    Klein said the lawsuit will be filed on behalf of one or two current or former officers and then he will ask the judge to certify the suit as a class-action, allowing more people to join as plaintiffs.

    Catherine Galliford credited
    Former Mountie Krista Carle said she saw RCMP Cpl. Catherine Galliford tell her story on CBC News in November and was immediately inspired to tell her own story and to reach out to fellow officers online by starting a Facebook group.

    "It's almost like a group therapy with other women that experienced harassment and are taking a stand against it," she said.

    Carle said she and many of her colleagues have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, some have been divorced and some can no longer work.

    "I've had days I've been so depressed I just haven't wanted to get out of bed and that's where the Facebook site has been extremely supportive," said Carle.

    Carle told her own story to CBC News the day after Galliford's story broke.
    Former officer Heli Kijanen, of Thunder Bay, Ont., said she went for years without thinking that anyone would believe her accounts of harassment on the job, and also credits Galliford with helping her step forward.

    "It was Catherine Galliford that triggered me to go forward and find someone who was going to listen to me, who knew how important it was for the public to know about the RCMP and what's going on in this organization," Kijanen said.

    Carle said the growing number of women coming forward is a sad commentary on the force.

    "I think people will be really shocked and surprised that people have put up with this kind of nonsense. You don't expect this from the RCMP. You expect better," she said.


  8. Female B.C. Mountie launches harassment lawsuit

    CBC News January 6, 2012

    Another female RCMP officer has come forward with allegations of harassment by her male colleagues and inaction by her superiors after she went to them with complaints.

    Const. Karen Katz, who took medical leave in February 2009 due to post-traumatic stress disorder she says was caused by her oppressive work experience, filed a lawsuit at the B.C. Supreme Court this week.

    Katz is suing fellow officer Baldev Singh Bamra, the federal attorney general, the federal minister of public safety and the B.C. solicitor general.

    She claims Bamra harassed and sexually humiliated her on the job.

    Katz said the harassment started when Bamra launched what she describes as a "campaign of …complaining" about her.

    She describes in court documents a number of alleged incidents in which “Bamra embarked on a pattern of erratic physical conduct,” toward her, “which escalated in nature.”

    She said Bamra slammed his chest into hers while they were wearing bulletproof vests in 2006.

    Then in 2007, Bamra rubbed his crotch against her knee, Katz says in her statement of claim.

    Complaints ignored
    Katz claims she reported the incidents to her supervisors, but they were never investigated.

    She says in the lawsuit that the federal and provincial governments have an obligation to provide a work environment free from harassment and sexual assault, and that Bamra's behaviour caused or contributed to her illness.

    The allegations have not been proved in court and the RCMP has yet to file a statement of defence.

    Katz’s lawsuit follows a litany of similar allegations and lawsuits filed by other female Mounties and former officers initiated by an exclusive CBC News story about Cpl. Catherine Galliford.

    A male officer also said he was harassed because he didn't share the attitudes of the "old boys' network."

    A group of Vancouver and Ontario lawyers said they will apply to the court for certification as a class action lawsuit sometime this month.

    Newly appointed RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson has vowed to deal with the harassment allegations and to set about changing the behaviour of officers.


  9. Time is running out for the Pickton inquiry

    by Brian Hutchinson, National Post  January 10, 2012 

    More trouble is brewing for Wally Oppal, the former B.C. attorney general who is presiding over the province’s Missing Women Commission of Inquiry. He has already clashed openly with commission lawyer Cameron Ward, representing families of 25 women who vanished from Vancouver’s crime-riddled Downtown Eastside.

    Dozens more women disappeared before a suspect long known to police was finally arrested at his suburban pig farm in 2002. Robert “Willie” Pickton was eventually charged with 26 murders.


    Problems appeared before hearings began in October, months behind schedule. Critics called the inquiry inadequate and compromised. It has been protested and shunned by aboriginals and First Nations groups. Mr. Oppal’s appointment as commissioner has been criticized. The province’s decision to not directly fund more parties, including families of the victims, has been slammed.

    But its mandate is strong. It’s meant to examine how police conducted investigations into dozens of cases of women who vanished from the Downtown Eastside. Most were sex-trade workers. Just as important, the inquiry is supposed to determine what led B.C.’s criminal justice branch to stay charges of attempted murder, forcible confinement and assault against Pickton in 1998.

    A year earlier, Pickton had nearly stabbed to death a local prostitute, whom he’d plucked from the Vancouver streets. The charges laid against him were stayed, and he walked free. By 2000, Pickton had been placed under loose police surveillance — and street workers continued to vanish.

    A pair of RCMP constables interviewed Pickton; this was unproductive. “It should have been planned better,” one of the constables would later recall. “I look back and I know I flubbed it.” Pickton did give the two Mounties consent to search his property. Incredibly, they did not take up his offer.

    After his arrest in 2002, Pickton claimed responsibility for 49 deaths. He was tried in 2007 and convicted on six murder charges. Twenty more charges were eventually stayed.

    Why was Pickton not prosecuted a decade earlier, after his initial arrest? Why was his property not searched when police had an opportunity? What went wrong with parallel Vancouver Police Department and RCMP investigation into missing women, and who is responsible for their shortcomings?

    We still don’t know. As lawyer Cameron Ward notes, the inquiry still hasn’t heard from police directly involved in the investigations.


    A lawyer representing the VPD at the inquiry apologized to Ms. Bryce for the way police had treated her. VPD deputy chief Doug LePard, in his testimony before Mr. Oppal, also apologized for his police force.

    More police are expected to testify this month. Alberta-based RCMP Superintendent Robert Williams is scheduled to appear at the inquiry Wednesday. He wrote an internal RCMP report in 2002 that defended how its officers in B.C. conducted their missing women investigation.

    He is to be followed by Peel, Ont., deputy police chief Jennifer Evans, who wrote for the inquiry a scathing 800-page examination of both police investigations. Also expected to testify soon is RCMP Corporal Catherine Galliford, who acted as spokeswoman for the RCMP during the missing women period. Cpl. Galliford, who claims she was sexually harassed on the job and is now on medical leave, has told reporters her evidence before Mr. Oppal will be “explosive.”

    Mr. Oppal has until June 30 to hand in a final report to the province. The inquiry’s hearing phase is to conclude April 30. Not much time. Before testimony resumes Wednesday, the commissioner is expected to discuss with inquiry lawyers how the whole process might be streamlined.

    read the full article at:


  10. RCMP could have done more in Pickton probe

    CBC News January 11, 2012

    A top Alberta Mountie has told the Missing Women Inquiry in Vancouver police could have done a better job with the investigation into serial killer Robert Pickton.

    Supt. Bob Williams testified he would have been more diligent in following up on a tip that Pickton had murdered a prostitute on his farm in Port Coquitlam, as the inquiry resumed its hearings in Vancouver on Wednesday morning.

    The statement was a shift from previous statements made by Williams in a 2002 RCMP internal report.

    In that report, which reviewed the RCMP's handling of the Pickton case, Williams gave a relatively positive assessment of the investigation and praised the the RCMP's investigation, according to Robert Gordon, the director of the school of criminology at Simon Fraser University.

    The 2002 report said there were difficulties in corroborating allegations that Robert Pickton was involved in killing sex workers at his hog farm in Port Coquitlam, but nevertheless suggested the force did all it could.

    The report also said the RCMP was able to work well with the Vancouver police, in contrast to allegations that a turf war had erupted between the two forces. However, it complained that scarce resources had been spread across a number of high-profile cases.

    But before the hearing, Gordon told CBC News it's commonplace for police forces to present a picture of inclusion and collaboration.

    He compared the 2002 report to a later Vancouver Police Department report that was much more critical of both police forces.

    "The Williams report, of course, was produced for a different purpose," he said. "It was primarily to prepare a response to civil litigation, whereas the VPD report, for example, was, I think, very thorough, very candid and of course very apologetic."

    The Missing Women Inquiry, which is being run by former B.C. attorney general Wally Oppal, is designed to look at the police mishandling of the Pickton investigation and why the women, particularly those working in the sex trade on the streets of Vancouver, weren't better protected.

    Pickton was convicted of six murders in 2007. Investigators have said remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his farm in Port Coquitlam. The serial killer had bragged to police that he had killed 49.

    After his 2007 conviction, Pickton was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 25 years.

    Earlier reviews pointed to botched police investigations, a reluctance to act because the victims were involved in drugs and the sex trade, and a long list of other failures.


  11. RCMP’s Pickton report a self-serving waste of time

    by Brian Hutchinson, National Post January 11, 2012

    VANCOUVER — “We will be moving much more quickly,” Wally Oppal vowed first thing Wednesday at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, called to examine how police investigated Vancouver’s worst tragedy, and how Robert “Willie” Pickton evaded capture and prosecution until at least six local sex- trade workers were murdered, chopped to pieces and buried on his Port Coquitlam pig farm.

    Mr. Oppal is commissioner, the boss. His inquiry is dragging, and time is running out, so his directive Wednesday to speed up the process was necessary and welcome. What followed was not.

    What followed was testimony from R.J. (Bob) Williams, a RCMP superintendent from Alberta who had nothing to do with the Pickton file when it was active. All he did was prepare an after-the-fact “external review” of the off-again, on-again Pickton investigation that Mounties in B.C. conducted before the killer’s arrest in 2002. The RCMP investigation, it’s now clear, was seriously flawed. But so was the review conducted by Supt. Williams.

    Once Pickton was finally arrested and charged with serial murders, the RCMP needed inoculation. It faced civil lawsuits launched by families of the pig farmer’s victims, people incensed by police failures to apprehend the man before he killed and killed again.

    One RCMP deflection strategy was having Supt. Williams conduct a helpful investigation review. Inside of a month, he delivered a 27-page apologia. Printed in boldface at the bottom of every page was this telling caveat: Prepared for the Purpose of Current and Anticipated Civil Litigation. It was never intended for public consumption, the inquiry heard.

    Senior commission counsel Art Vertlieb put Supt. Williams through his paces on the witness stand Wednesday. Any credibility his RCMP report might have had was shredded. Mr. Vertlieb made it look easy; he had only to point to the report’s most egregious clangers.

    “There is little doubt that the RCMP attempted to exhaust all investigative avenues relative to the suspect Robert William Pickton,” Supt. Williams had written. “Throughout this review, it was apparent that the RCMP allocated adequate resources to the missing women investigation(s)… We should not be critical of the strides that the investigators took to determine if in fact Robert William Pickton was a viable suspect.”

    Bold declarations contradicted by the facts. While conducting his post-mortem, Supt. Williams learned that RCMP investigators had dismissed potential evidence from a key Pickton associate, a drug addict named Lynn Ellingsen. In 1999, Ms. Ellingsen told others how she and Pickton had once picked up a sex-trade worker from the city’s Downtown Eastside. They took her back to Pickton’s suburban farm, Ms. Ellingsen claimed. There, she saw Pickton dismember the prostitute. Or so she had said, apparently.

    RCMP investigators decided to interview Ms. Ellingsen. She denied having made such statements. She refused to submit to a polygraph test. Investigators shrugged and let her walk out the door.

    Was this proper? Should the Mounties have pressed Ms. Ellingsen further, to see if she would talk? Eventually, years later, she did.

    “I would have done more work, yeah, absolutely,” Supt. Williams told the inquiry Wednesday. “I would have taken other steps… I would have pressed on… [That] was one of the things that bothered us…. We would have liked to have seen more effort.”

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    Later in 1999, RCMP investigators contacted Pickton and requested an interview with him. Pickton demurred, saying he was too busy with farm work. Remarkably, the officers accepted that. These events were noted in passing in the 2002 Williams report.

    On Wednesday, Supt. Williams conceded that the officers should not have simply given up. “I would have sent them right back [to Pickton],” he said. An interview was finally conducted in early 2000. Supt. Williams made little of it in his 2002 report. Inexplicably, the Mounties allowed another Pickton associate, a woman named Gina Houston, to sit in.

    “Was that a mistake?” asked Mr. Vertlieb.

    “I would say so,” conceded Mr. Williams. “Personally, I wouldn’t have allowed her to be in that [interview] room.”

    He then agreed that RCMP in B.C. had not assigned adequate “human resources” to its missing women investigation.

    “We’re in complete agreement that not enough people were on this file?” asked Mr. Vertlieb.

    “Yes,” replied Supt. Williams. Another contradiction.

    His report was left exposed as a self-serving obfuscation. Parsing it seemed a waste of precious inquiry time. Will we be moving much more quickly? Perhaps not. Supt. Williams is scheduled to appear again on Thursday.


  13. Mountie on 'social visit' told Pickton informants on his trail


    VANCOUVER — An RCMP officer who paid a "social visit" alone to Robert Pickton in 2001 tipped the pig farmer that two informants had accused Pickton of "killing people and doing all sorts of horrible things."

    But RCMP Supt. Bob Williams refused to say on the stand at the Missing Women Inquiry Thursday if naming those informants put their lives at risk or undermined what was still an active serial-murder investigation.

    Williams interviewed the officer, Cpl. Frank Henley, for his 2002 report on whether the Mounties could be liable for civil lawsuit compensation to the families of women murdered by Pickton.

    "Snitches are not welcome in the criminal underworld, in fact they are probably often killed?" demanded lawyer Jason Gratl, a lawyer acting for Downtown Eastside aboriginal and women's groups.

    Pressed by Gratl to say if revealing sources was a "breach of discipline . . . or a firing offence," Williams, the first senior Mountie to take the stand, protested, "that's going pretty far."

    Williams testified that one of Henley's reasons for his "visit" to Pickton may have been that the Mountie might have been curious, "trying to get a handle on what makes him (Pickton) tick, that sort of thing."

    Williams noted Henley also visited Pickton "on his mistaken belief that the police investigation (into Pickton as a serial killer) had shut down."

    Aside from curiosity, Williams was at a loss to account for Henley, protesting "it would be better if he explained his reasons" to the inquiry.

    Henley gave Pickton the names of informants Ross Caldwell and Lynn Ellingsen, whose eyewitness evidence later helped convict Pickton.

    Pickton was at the time of Henley's visit a key focus of the joint RCMP-Vancouver police Missing Women Task Force.

    Asked if Henley's perceptions were "odd," Williams shot back: "There's lots of oddities in this investigation."

    Williams, a 44-year veteran Mountie, said he would not have condoned the visit by Henley.

    Several lawyers at the inquiry, as well as victims' families, are pushing for the inquiry to call front-line investigators, instead of "armchair experts" or top officers like Williams and Vancouver Police Department Deputy Chief Doug LePard.

    Next Monday, however, the inquiry will hear from another "review" witness, Peel, Ont., Region Deputy Chief Jennifer Evans, who last year conducted an exhaustive review of the Pickton investigation for the inquiry.

    Hearings at the inquiry will continue until the end of April, with Commissioner Wally Oppal pledging to hand in his final report by June.


  14. Bernardo case similar to Pickton's, inquiry hears

    The Canadian Press January 16, 2012

    The same systemic problems that allowed notorious sex killer Paul Bernardo to rape and murder women in Ontario in the late 1980s and early 1990s contributed to the failure of the Vancouver police and RCMP to catch serial killer Robert Pickton, a public inquiry heard Monday.

    Deputy Chief Jennifer Evans, of Ontario's Peel Regional police, was asked to review the Pickton file for the inquiry, writing a critical report that concluded investigations by both the Vancouver police and the RCMP were plagued by poor communication and a lack of leadership.

    Those issues were amplified, Evans testified Monday, by the fact that two jurisdictions were working on separate investigations.

    Her testimony was peppered with references to the Paul Bernardo case and a report authored by an Ontario judge in 1996. Evans assisted Justice Archie Campbell during his review of the Bernardo case.

    As with Bernardo, the fact that Pickton committed his crimes in different jurisdictions — picking up sex workers in Vancouver and then killing them in nearby Port Coquitlam — played a key role in the failure of police to catch him, said Evans.

    "Systemically, there were similarities," Evans said when asked to compare the Bernardo and Pickton investigations.

    "Bernardo was a multi-jurisdictional offender who travelled across multiple jurisdictions committing his crimes. That led to issues that Justice Campbell identified with regard to a breakdown in communication between the police forces."

    Evans also said in both cases, there was no way to easily track tips that came into investigators in different jurisdictions.

    Supervisors weren't using major case-management techniques, and senior management failed to take ownership over their respective investigations.

    In the Bernardo case, when rapes stopped in a city, the local police department gave the case a lower priority, even though Bernardo was still assaulting women in other communities.

    With Pickton, RCMP investigators in Port Coquitlam were treating their investigation as historical because they believed women had stopped disappearing when, in fact, sex workers were still vanishing in Vancouver.

    Campbell's final report said Bernardo sexually assaulted at least 18 women in Scarborough, Peel, and St. Catharines.

    Bernardo was convicted of killing Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French in St. Catharines and for manslaughter in the death of his then-sister-in-law, Tammy Homolka. He is serving an indefinite sentence. His former wife Karla Homolka received a 12-year sentence and has since been released.

    In the Vancouver area, there were several separate but related investigations into missing sex workers and Pickton.

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    Vancouver police were investigating reports that sex workers were disappearing from the Downtown Eastside, while the RCMP was investigating whether Pickton was involved.

    The RCMP had investigated Pickton for an attack on a sex worker in 1997, but Crown prosecutors declined to prosecute a charge of attempted murder.

    Eventually, the Vancouver police and the RCMP formed a joint operation to investigate cases of missing women, known as Project Evenhanded.

    Evans said for the most part, investigators on the ground in both agencies were talking with each other, but their superiors were not. In fact, some of those superiors appeared to be unaware of the most basic details of the missing women case.

    For example, then Vancouver Police Chief Bruce Chambers appeared "shocked" in February 1999 when one of his officers told a community meeting in the Downtown Eastside that women who disappeared from the neighbourhood had likely met foul play.

    Evans said the revelation should have prompted Chambers to take steps to ensure enough resources were devoted to the file and to contact senior management within the RCMP's Coquitlam detachment, but that didn't happen.

    Even when officers were talking, they often failed to act with the urgency the case demanded, said Evans.

    In particular, Evans pointed out that Project Evenhanded was a review of historic missing women cases and was premised on the theory — incorrect, as it turned out — that sex workers were no longer disappearing.

    When an officer from Vancouver told the lead RCMP investigator with Evenhanded, Staff Sgt. Don Adam, in the fall of 2001 that women were still disappearing, Adam refused to shift focus.

    He insisted redeploying his team to look into ongoing disappearances would have a "crippling effect" on his investigation, which was not considering the possibility that an active serial killer was still snatching women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

    Pickton was caught several months later, but not by anyone who was investigating Vancouver's missing women or Pickton's potential involvement.

    Instead, a junior RCMP officer who had received a tip about illegal firearms obtained a search warrant for Pickton's farm. He brought along members of Project Evenhanded.

    Officers found the belongings and remains of dozens of missing women, setting off a massive search that eventually uncovered the remains or DNA of 33 women.

    Pickton was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder. He claimed to have killed 49.


  16. Police foresaw Pickton inquiry, noted bungled investigation, almost two years before serial killer’s arrest

    by Brian Hutchinson, National Post January 20, 2012

    VANCOUVER • It was April 2000, the height of Robert “Willie” Pickton’s killing spree. Dozens of women were already missing, and 23 more would vanish. The Port Coquitlam pig farmer was trolling for skid row prostitutes, driving them to his farm, murdering them, disposing of their bodies and going back for more. He would continue this horrible pattern for at least another year, and right under the noses of police.

    Pickton was by then a prime police suspect. Documents disclosed recently at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry in Vancouver offer stunning details of what police knew — or thought they knew — and what some officers didn’t seem to want to know.

    Major crimes investigators were already aware, for example, that Pickton had a predilection for prostitutes. They knew of his episodic, sadistic violence. They had sources who claimed he was murdering women and chopping them to pieces. And yet investigations launched by both RCMP and the Vancouver Police Department seemed low priorities, the inquiry has heard. Little effort was made to co-ordinate efforts. Promising leads were discounted or dismissed altogether.

    Perhaps most telling, on April 25, 2000, RCMP officers were already discussing the possibility that bungled police efforts would lead to a public inquiry.

    On that date, a staff sergeant named Brad Zalys had a conversation with a superior officer, RCMP Inspector Earl Moulton. Staff Sgt. Zalys made the following observation in his notebook: “Also discussed Pickton again–>if he turns out to be responsible–>inquiry!–>Deal with that if the time comes!”

    What led Staff Sgt. Zalys, Inspector Moulton, and others to such a state? What did they know? Why hadn’t Pickton been stopped by then? And why did B.C.’s criminal justice branch decide, in 1998, to stay proceedings against the loathsome pig farmer, after he’d been charged with attempting to murder a prostitute on his pig farm?

    The present inquiry, led by former B.C. attorney general Wally Oppal, has a mandate to find out all of that, and to recommend changes to the way police homicide investigations are conducted.

    Proceedings have moved at a snail’s pace since hearings began in downtown Vancouver last fall, frustrating everyone involved, including Mr. Oppal. None of the officers who actually investigated Pickton have testified. That’s about to change. Next week, the inquiry will start hearing from as many as 33 police officers involved in the Pickton investigations.

    One of them is Coquitlam RCMP Staff Sgt. Mike Connor, who likely knew more than any other officer about Pickton from 1997 to 2002, the crucial five years under review.

    Staff Sgt. Connor, then a corporal, was assigned to investigate Pickton’s near-fatal stabbing of a Vancouver prostitute at his farm in March, 1997. Pickton was barely known to police at that point. While women were going missing from Lower Mainland streets, there was still no inkling they might have been murdered, let alone by a serial killer.

    The stabbing was an ugly but straightforward case that Staff Sgt. Connor conducted quickly. Both Pickton and the prostitute whom he had repeatedly stabbed were interviewed, and conclusions were easily drawn.

    The woman’s story became eerily familiar: She was “working” in Vancouver’s crime-infested Downtown Eastside when Pickton approached and offered her $100 for sexual favours. She climbed into his pickup truck, and Pickton drove her to his Port Coquitlam farm. He escorted her inside his filthy mobile home, where they had sex. Afterwards, Pickton refused payment. “Suddenly from behind Pickton put a handcuff on her,” reads a report made by Staff Sgt. Connor, released to the public last week.

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    A violent struggle ensued. The prostitute, who cannot be named by court order, grabbed a filleting knife with an eight-inch blade and swung at Pickton, slashing his throat “almost from ear to ear.”

    Pickton took the knife from her and retaliated, stabbing her, “to the hilt of the knife, in the chest,” reads Staff Sgt. Connor’s report. They stumbled outside the trailer and the fight continued, until Pickton fell to the ground. The woman, bleeding profusely, ran away and flagged down a car.

    According to Staff Sgt. Connor’s report, the woman “died” in a local hospital emergency room but was revived. Pickton was also treated in hospital. He admitted to having stabbed the woman, but claimed not to have provoked the attack. He was charged with attempted murder, and released on bail.

    Four days after the attack, Staff Sgt. Connor prepared an incident summary, distributed to police across B.C.’s Lower Mainland.

    “It has been determined that [the stabbing victim] is an East Hastings area hooker and Pickton is known to frequent that area weekly,” it read. “Given the violence shown by Pickton toward prostitutes and women in general, this information is being forwarded to your attention should you have similar offences.”

    The attempted murder charge was dropped, according to notes prepared by Staff Sgt. Connor, because the victim was a heroin addict and presented herself late to interviews with Crown counsel.

    Regardless, Pickton became stuck on Staff Sgt. Connor’s radar. Over the next two years until his promotion from corporal, the Mountie would build his Pickton file.

    Staff Sgt. Connor would heard from other women who had encountered the “creepy” pig farmer, women who had lived to talk about it. He would also hear stories about women who hadn’t survived. Those stories, incredible as they first seemed, added to a body of evidence that he could not simply sweep aside.

    Between April 1997 and April 1998, eight more women from the Downtown Eastside were reported missing. Their names were added to a list of cases that would keep growing.

    In July, 1998, police received a valuable tip. A man called a Crime Stoppers hotline and described someone called “Willie.” He used prostitutes and kept a collection of their clothing and personal items inside his trailer, the tipster said. Willie had recently been in a knife fight with a prostitute. Willie had boasted to others that he could easily dispose of human bodies if he wished, by putting them through a meat grinder.

    A week later, the same tipster called Crime Stoppers again, and said Willie might be responsible for the “missing prostitutes.” Willie, he added, lived on a farm in Port Coquitlam.

    Vancouver police detective Lori Shenher tracked down the tipster, whose name is Bill Hiscox. She introduced him to Staff Sgt. Connor. It became clear to both officers that Mr. Hiscox was passing along information he had gleaned from a close Pickton associate, a woman named Lisa Yelds.

    “Even at this stage of the investigation,” Staff Sgt. Connor wrote with hindsight, in records filed at the inquiry, “given what I knew of Pickton, I felt this person certainly could have been responsible for attacks on other prostitutes. I was not absolutely convinced on the homicides, as like most investigators of the time period, we all asked where are the bodies. Even though I was sure Pickton was capable.”

    Staff Sgt. Connor was informed that Pickton was killing prostitutes as “pay back” for the 1997 knifing incident on his farm.

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    More sources came forward, and potential witnesses were identified and approached. By mid-1999, Staff Sgt. Connor wanted to launch an undercover operation on another known Pickton associate, Lynn Ellingsen. She had told police sources that she’d once picked up a prostitute with Pickton, that she’d later seen him skinning the woman’s body inside his barn. Ms. Ellingsen would eventually became a key Crown witness at Pickton’s serial murder trial. Thanks in part to Ms. Ellingsen’s testimony, a jury convicted Pickton of six counts of second degree murder. Another 20 murder charges laid against him were later stayed.

    But in 1999, she wanted nothing to do with authorities. She denied everything to police. “There was no doubt in my mind that Pickton and Ellingsen were involved in the murders of prostitutes,” Staff Sgt. Connor recalled, in documents tabled at the inquiry. “It was suggested by some members [that an undercover operation on Ellingsen] would be a waste of time and money. That she was ‘crazy,’ cocaine addicted and hallucinated and what she saw was actually a pig hanging in the barn and not a human…There was a difference of opinion as to whether the information [was] reliable enough for the investigation to continue.”

    Staff Sgt. Connor looked for other investigative routes. He recommended that surveillance be conducted on Pickton. Some attempts were made, then abandoned. Pickton had been alerted to the surveillance, Staff Sgt. Connor discovered.

    In late August, 1999, Staff Sgt. Connor was promoted from corporal and pulled from the case. He requested secondment back to the investigation. His request was denied. New RCMP investigators were assigned; they made a series of unfortunate mistakes, the inquiry has heard. And Pickton kept on killing, until his arrest in February, 2002.

    The inquiry resumes Tuesday, with testimony from former VPD criminal profiler Kim Rossmo. Staff Sgt. Zalys, Insp. Moulton and Det. Const. Shenher are among the other officers expected to testify before hearings conclude April 30.


  19. Pickton inquiry hears serial killer concerns dismissed

    CBC News January 24, 2012

    A renowned criminologist says his warnings a serial killer might be behind the disappearance of sex workers from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside were dismissed as inaccurate and inflammatory.

    Kim Rossmo, a geographic profiler who was a member of the Vancouver Police Department at the time, told the Pickton inquiry Tuesday that he tried to set up a working group to investigate the disappearances in 1998 but the group was shut down a month later.

    Rossmo, who is credited as being among the first officers to warn about the possibility of a serial killer, testified his concerns were dismissed by Insp. Fred Biddlecombe, who was the head of the major crimes unit at the time.

    He said there were several people in the department interested in investigating further, but there was little support at the top.

    "No police agency wants to have a serial murder case," Rossmo testified.

    "It creates a lot of problems. It creates political pressure, it generates media interest, it might raise levels of community fear, it requires them to respond with a suitable level of resources."

    Rossmo said he and another officer were preparing to issue a news release warning the public a serial killer could be at work in the Downtown Eastside. It would have marked the first time Vancouver police had publicly acknowledged the possibility of a serial killer.

    But just two weeks before the news release was scheduled to be issued, it was scrapped by Biddlecombe.

    Rossmo said the issue came to a head in September 1998 when Biddlecombe threw a temper tantrum during a meeting and dismissed his concerns as inaccurate and inflammatory.

    Rossmo also told the inquiry sex workers are particularly vulnerable.

    "A street prostitute is the perfect victim that way," he said. "The social response, the police response, the media response is going to be much lower than if you were targeting, say, children or middle class individuals."

    Rossmo is expected to continue his testimony for several days.

    Systemic failures

    In a brief address prior to the opening of the inquiry Tuesday, commissioner Wally Oppal compared the Pickton investigation to other serial killer cases including Clifford Olson, Ted Bundy and Gary Ridgway, known as Green River Killer.

    Even though the cases spawned their own investigations and inquiries, Oppal said the same problems keep cropping up — issues of leadership, morale and resources within the policing community.

    Oppal said he has to ask himself what he can do differently if previous reports failed to affect change.

    Oppal said his final report will examine the systemic failures in the policing environment, including the relationship between police and the victims, and the failures in the organization itself.

    Report due in June
    Pickton wasn't arrested until February 2002, five years after his name first surfaced as a suspect in the disappearance of sex workers in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, when officers showed up at his Port Coquitlam farm with a search warrant related to illegal firearms and stumbled upon the belongings and remains of missing women.

    Pickton was convicted in 2007 of six counts of second-degree murder, but the remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his farm. He claimed to have killed a total of 49 women. He is currently serving a life sentence.

    Rossmo, now a professor at Texas State University, invented a technique of tracking crimes that is used around the world. He was the first Canadian police officer to get a PhD in criminology.

    The missing women inquiry, headed by Oppal, is examining why Vancouver police and the RCMP failed to catch Pickton in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and why prosecutors declined to pursue an attempted murder charge against him after an attack on a sex worker in 1997.

    A final report is due by June 30, 2012.


  20. Tense exchange at Pickton inquiry over officer's actions

    The Canadian Press  January 26, 2012

    A former Vancouver police inspector who has faced intense criticism at the Robert Pickton inquiry is disputing some of the allegations against him, rejecting claims he ruled out the possibility of a serial killer and suggesting one of his fiercest critics is biased.
    Several witnesses have singled out Insp. Fred Biddlecombe, who was in charge of the force's major crime section during the late 1990s as the force received reports of sex workers disappearing from the city's Downtown Eastside.

    Biddlecombe has been accused of being a hot-headed, arrogant manager quick to dismiss evidence that a serial killer could be at work and instead clinging to the belief that the women weren't actually missing.

    Those criticisms have been amplified this week with the testimony of former detective Kim Rossmo, a geographic profiler who was among the first to warn that a serial killer was responsible.

    Rossmo has testified Biddlecombe was immediately confrontational when a working group suggested the serial killer angle, having a "temper tantrum" at a September 1998 meeting and effectively disbanding the team.

    Biddlecombe's lawyer, David Neave, questioned Rossmo during a tense cross-examination Thursday.

    Neave pointed to a newspaper article in September 1998 in which Biddlecombe was quoted as saying he hadn't ruled out the possibility of a serial killer. In the article, Biddlecombe also repeated the force's position at the time that there was nonetheless no evidence police were dealing with a serial killer case.

    "Insp. Biddlecombe was not ruling out the possibility of a serial killer -- fair?" Neave asked Rossmo.

    "Based on his actions and what he said in the meeting on the 22nd of September [1998], I felt that he had effectively ruled it out," replied Rossmo.

    "If the statement is correct [in the newspaper article], Insp. Biddlecombe was not ruling out the possibility of a serial killer," Neave repeated.

    "This is a newspaper story," replied Rossmo. "You're acting like police departments are always truthful with the media."

    That prompted laughter from the public gallery.

    Rossmo and his working group were preparing to issue a news release later that month telling the public about their work, specifically that they were looking into whether "a serial murderer is preying upon people in the Downtown Eastside."

    Rossmo has said he hoped the news release would also serve as a public warning.

    But Biddlecombe nixed the release, complaining to a colleague that it was "inaccurate and quite inflammatory," the inquiry has heard.

    In the meantime, Biddlecombe was ordering the force's chief spokeswoman, Const. Anne Drennan, to tell reporters there was no evidence of a serial killer, according to an internal Vancouver police report. Drennan didn't publicly acknowledge the possibility of a serial murderer until November 1999.

    Neave also pointed out that in May of 1999, Biddlecombe assigned more than half a dozen investigators to what's become known as the missing women review team, or Project Amelia.

    The way Rossmo tells it, he and Biddlecombe had a caustic working relationship. After the meeting in September 1998, which some lawyers at the inquiry have started to refer to as the "temper tantrum meeting," Rossmo said Biddlecombe refused to interact with him.

    Neave suggested Rossmo's beef with the force extended beyond Biddlecombe.

    Rossmo left the force in December 2000, after the department declined to extend his contract as a geographic profiler.

    Rather than accept a lesser-paying position of constable, Rossmo sued the force for wrongful dismissal. Rossmo lost at trial, and again on appeal. [...]


  21. Missing women concerns dismissed by 'old guard'

    The Canadian Press January 30, 2012

    A Vancouver police officer who raised red flags about women disappearing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside says her concerns were dismissed by the "old guard" within the department. And Det. Const. Lori Shenher on Monday told the inquiry into the investigation of serial killer Robert Pickton that a group formed to look into the missing women was merely window dressing.

    "There were a lot of things that were going on at that time under chief (Bruce) Chambers that were on paper and I felt this was very much a paper squad," she testified. "It was a bit of a shell game. I don't think it was really going to turn into actual investigators actually doing this work."

    Shenher, who was working the missing persons unit at the time, testified she communicated to her superiors that these women weren't seeing their families, weren't picking up their cheques and there was a problem. "So that was hard because somehow that message just wasn't getting (through to the) old guard, if you want to call it that. That was definitely a problem," Shenher told the inquiry. "It seemed as though the more experienced people there were around the table, the less appreciation there was that we were dealing with a serial killer."

    The theory was brushed off as if those raising the possibility had read too many detective novels or seen too many movies, she said. Shenher said then-Det. Insp. Kim Rossmo was a good example of how senior officers dismissed an opinion if that person bypassed the chain of command. Rossmo told the inquiry last week that his serial killer theory was dismissed by an "arrogant" and "egotistical" Vancouver Police Insp. Fred Biddlecombe.

    Shenher said she involved Rossmo in some of the theories of the missing women case knowing that she would get a hard time from some of the other investigators. "But I felt like those were the kinds of stones we need to not leave unturned, we need to try and use the resources that we have. "I took that risk knowingly and thought that if anything good were to come from his information, then it was worth the risk."

    One of Shenher's first jobs was working in the Downtown Eastside, trying to make contact with the prostitutes in the area while also conducting undercover operations to arrest men trying to buy sex. Shenher got to know many of the women, and made a special connection with Sereena Abotsway and Angela Jardine, two of the women who would later appear on the missing women's list. It was their disappearance that really cemented her suspicions, she said. "These were people who were very much of a fabric of the Downtown Eastside. They drew all their support and sustenance from the community and I couldn't conceive of either one of them voluntarily leaving that community."

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    A tip in July 1998 led Shenher right to Pickton's door.

    She began investigating the Port Coquitlam, B.C. pig farmer and found that a charge of attempted murder had been stayed against him.

    A sex-trade worker told police she was picked up in the Downtown Eastside and offered $100 for sex back at Pickton's farm. The woman was attacked and stabbed, but made it out to the road where a couple passing in a vehicle helped her.

    "Honestly, my thought was this is the kind of guy we were looking for," she said. "The idea that he had a large property and that he had what seemed quite clear to me was the ability to dispose of bodies."

    Shenher said she was very mindful that they weren't finding any bodies up to that point, so they were looking for someone who could get rid of the evidence. Her tipster told her Pickton had a "grinder" to get rid of the bodies.

    "I thought 'bingo,' this is the kind of guy we're looking for."

    Shenher later interviewed the woman who was allegedly attacked by Pickton and was even more convinced that he should be moved to the top of the suspect list.

    The woman — whose name is protected by a publication ban — told Shenher that Pickton clapped a handcuff on her wrist while they were in his trailer and she began fighting for her life. The woman slashed Pickton and then he stabbed her before she ran to the road for help.

    "It was exactly the kind of scenario I had envisioned. It was frustrating as well."

    The woman told Shenher she was told the charges were stayed because the woman was a drug addict.

    But Shenher said she never came to know the true reasons for why the charges were stayed against Pickton in connection to that attack.

    "I'm sure this commission will find that out."

    She recalled discussing the case with the investigating RCMP officer and learned that the woman had almost died on the operating room table a few times during surgery.

    "As morbid a thought as it is, had she died, we probably would have had a slam-dunk murder conviction without her testimony."


  23. Officer tipped to ‘creepy guy’ almost four years before Robert Pickton’s arrest

    by Brian Hutchinson, National Post January 30, 2012

    Lori Shenher seemed just the cop to help solve missing women cases in Vancouver’s crime-infested Downtown Eastside. She knew the sex trade and she knew the neighbourhood, having posed there as a prostitute during undercover stings, a handgun concealed inside her coat. She knew some of the missing women and she cared about them.

    In July 1998, Det.-Const. Shenher — then a junior constable — was transferred to the Vancouver Police Department’s Missing Persons Unit. Prostitutes were vanishing from the Downtown Eastside. Discovering their fate became her purpose.

    Some officers were already of the notion that the sex workers were being murdered, Det. Shenher recalled Monday, in testimony at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.

    “This could very possibly become a serial killer investigation,” one VPD officer told her. Yet there was no co-ordinated police investigation, no strategic direction, no sense of urgency at all. Missing prostitutes were a low priority. Sex trade workers vanished all the time without a trace, so went prevailing wisdom. No corpses had been discovered; murder was merely hypothetical.

    Det.-Const. Shenher was herself far from convinced. “I was willing to concede this [serial killer notion was] a very real possibility,” she told the inquiry, “but I wasn’t ready to make that leap.”

    Only days after her move to the Missing Persons Unit, a tipster called a VPD hotline. He talked about a pig farmer, with property in suburban Port Coquitlam. A “creepy guy,” with a taste for “low track” survival sex trade workers in the Downtown Eastside. The name was Robert “Willie” Pickton.

    Det.-Const. Shenher grabbed the information and ran a background check. She discovered that a year prior, Pickton had been in a violent altercation with a Downtown Eastside prostitute. He’d taken the woman to his farm, where they had had sex. He had then attempted to handcuff her. The woman had grabbed a knife and had sliced at Pickton’s throat. Pickton had stabbed her in the chest before falling to the ground. The woman had barely survived. Pickton was interviewed by police after the event and admitted that he’d stabbed the woman.

    He was charged with her attempted murder and with unlawful confinement. The charges were stayed in early 1998, because, the inquiry has heard, officials with B.C.’s criminal justice branch were concerned the woman’s drug habit would make her seem untrustworthy to a judge or jury.

    Det.-Const. Shenher met with the stabbing victim, and found her perfectly credible. She met with the hotline tipster, and decided he was honest and motivated by real concern. Their information made her return to the serial killer theory, and to Pickton as possible perpetrator. “It was clear to me that he had the ability to dispose of bodies [on his farm],” Det. Const. Shenher told the inquiry on Monday. “I thought, ‘Bingo, this is the kind of guy we’re looking for.’”

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    He was their guy, of course. But Pickton wasn’t arrested and charged with serial murders for another four years. In the meantime, he continued to lure women to his pig farm, where he killed them and disposed of their bodies.

    It’s up to the Missing Women Inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal to determine how the VPD and the RCMP conducted their investigations. Pickton was stuck on the police radars, yet he slipped though their fingers. What went wrong?

    The inquiry has heard explanations from a number of police witnesses. Mr. Oppal now knows that senior VPD and RCMP brass were loathe to consider the serial killer theory, even with members such as Det.-Const. Shenher and her counterpart in Coquitlam, RCMP Corporal Mike Connor, increasingly alive to the possibility, and with a compelling suspect top of mind.

    Then again, Det.-Const. Shenher acknowledged her own unwillingness to push aggressively. “I was very deferential [to senior VPD officers],” she told the inquiry on Monday. “The last thing I wanted was to come across as a know-it-all.”

    Attempting to force the serial-killer angle on skeptical superiors would not have helped her career, she conceded. “I don’t think I would have been taken all that seriously,” she told the inquiry, adding she would have likely been accused of “reading too many detective novels, watching too many movies.” And going over the heads of her immediate bosses simply was not on. That, she said, would have been “career suicide.”

    She had seemed just the cop to help, but she wouldn’t rock the boat. She plugged away, collected information, collaborated with the RCMP’s Connor, and got almost nowhere until “burning out” in 2000, according to documents filed at the inquiry. After taking four months leave, Det.-Const. Shenher moved to another VPD unit. And Pickton won more time. He claimed more victims.

    Det.-Const. Shenher continues her testimony at the inquiry Tuesday.


  25. Officer weeps while testifying at Pickton inquiry

    The Canadian Press January 31, 2012

    The lone police officer assigned to investigate missing persons while women were disappearing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside broke down in tears at the inquiry into the Robert Pickton case Tuesday.

    Det. Const. Lori Shenher has told the inquiry she was almost alone in investigating the disappearances, that her superiors discounted her growing suspicion a serial killer was responsible and ignored her suggestions it might be Pickton. Shenher wept as she described the impact of the case on her life. She said she left the missing person's review team burned out and disillusioned with police work.

    "I just want to be clear that whatever impact that this has had on me is very minor compared," she paused as her voice broke, "in comparison to what the families and friends of the missing or murdered women have gone through."

    Shenher said when she learned officers were scouring the Pickton's suburban pig farm, she wanted it to be anyone but him. "If it had been someone really tricky or skilled, I could have handled that, but ... it was this person that was so in my sights the whole time." It left her stunned, she added.

    As the outcome from the search became clear, Shenher testified she was left grief-stricken. "Every time someone's DNA was found on that farm, I was right back there. I was counting, I was counting women, how many women went missing from August, September '99, from that time when I really felt we were really closing in on him."

    She told the inquiry that when officers finally came around to believing the disappearances were the work of a serial killer, the complaints of women gone missing stopped. She said officers theorized the serial killer had stopped, perhaps because he was in jail, had died, or had changed his tactics. But the disappearances hadn't ended.

    Shenher later learned that 13 women had disappeared between 1999 and when Pickton was arrested in 2002. The DNA from 11 of those women was found on the farm. "We mistakenly relied on that information because reports either weren't taken or misplaced. I'm really not sure what happened."

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    The inquiry has heard from victims' families that a civilian clerk at the force rebuffed their attempts to file missing persons complaints. Shenher said she and other investigators were surprised to learn that Pickton had been ruled out as a suspect without explanation.

    "I think frustration hung in the air over everything we did that whole fall. We thought we had reached a crescendo, we were going forward we had momentum and then ... it felt like it died," she said of the police investigation in late 1999.

    She testified that all the information surrounding Pickton was by far the most compelling of any other person of interest. Pickton was arrested in 2002 and charged with killing 26 women, but was later convicted of killing six. Months after he was ruled out as a suspect, Vancouver police moved to wrap up the investigation.

    Shenher said her first thought was: "Why? Didn't we find everybody?" "I didn't understand how we could be winding down." She felt at the time that much more could have been done to investigate Pickton, to at least rule him in as a suspect or rule him out as the killer, she said.

    Shenher told the inquiry she was quite secure that she did a "damn good job" with what she had to work with, but until Deputy Chief Doug LePard conducted a review of the investigation, that was never acknowledged by the department. She suggested to Commissioner Wally Oppal that part of his inquiry may want to look at the police culture and why it's very hard to be an "out-of-the-box thinker" inside the department.

    Officers either assimilate or leave the culture, she said. Oppal thanked her for her input. "You've given us an indication of how much of an impact, on a personal level, this horrific tragedy has had on you. I think it helps understand what happened."


  27. RCMP boss details action on harassment claims

    By Meagan Fitzpatrick, CBC News January 31, 2012

    A new discipline regime is on its way to the RCMP as part of its strategy to deal with harassment claims, the force's commissioner told MPs on Tuesday.

    RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson outlined for the public safety committee some of the actions he has taken to deal with harassment claims within the force that were reported by CBC News last fall.

    Paulson told MPs that part of his strategy has been to centralize all the harassment complaints under one roof in Ottawa and that has helped ensure that timelines to deal with complaints are being met and that complainants are better informed about progress on their cases.

    Paulson also said he has taken action to address the "core behaviours" that give rise to complaints in the first place, including holding meetings with senior RCMP officials where "pointed conversations" were had on leadership and accountability. He also convened a meeting of all commanding officers from across the country and had a "frank discussion" with them about his expectations, he told the committee.

    "We recognized that there was opportunities to improve upon how we manage discipline and conduct in the organization so we've taken some steps towards moving to improve that process," Paulson said.

    The RCMP is looking at a "revamped conduct regime," Paulson explained, that will place more emphasis on discipline being corrective.

    "We're going to be pushing down informal discipline, redefining our discipline scheme and describing it as a conduct regime," he said.

    The current disciplinary process and the protocol for investigating harassment complaints are "cumbersome" and in "dire need" of an overhaul, the commissioner said.

    Paulson said he also met with Status of Women staff and said the RCMP is conducting a gender-audit of the department.

    The target to recruit more women into senior roles has also been raised from 30 per cent of the workforce to 35 per cent, he said.

    Paulson's appearance at the committee comes a day after the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP called for public submissions for its investigation into the harassment claims.

    The commission is conducting a public interest probe into the conduct of RCMP members in handling allegations of harassment within the workplace. It is looking at whether policies were followed, if they are adequate to deal with the allegations and whether investigations were done impartially.

    Submissions are being accepted until March 30. The investigation was initiated at Paulson's request.

    Paulson told the committee that there are about 90 harassment-related cases that are under review.

    Unlike his predecessor William Elliott, a civilian, Paulson has a long history with the RCMP. He joined the force about 25 years ago and spent most of his career in British Columbia before moving to RCMP headquarters in Ottawa in 2005.

    read the full article at:


  28. Missing women investigator feared becoming scapegoat

    CBC News February 1, 2012

    A Vancouver police officer has told the missing women inquiry she wrote an unpublished book about the botched police investigation into Robert Pickton in an effort to get the record straight and protect herself.

    Det. Const. Lori Shenher told the inquiry looking into the investigation of the serial killer that she wrote the manuscript while on maternity leave.

    Shenher says she wanted to write her story the way she remembered it and with her view on what she thought were the police failings, including her own.

    "When the search began of Pickton's property, I was frankly terrified that I was going to be made a scapegoat with whatever information was going to come out with respect to Mr. Pickton," she told the inquiry.

    When some of the family members of Pickton's victims learned of the book in 2003, they complained of being betrayed, but the book was never published.

    Under questioning from lawyer Cameron Ward, who represents several families of Pickton's victims, Shenher admitted she told the officer looking into the Pickton investigation that, at the time, the Vancouver Police Department didn't know what it was doing.

    She explained there was a lack of leadership within the department and as Pickton's property was being searched and as accusations mounted that Vancouver police had botched the investigation, police brass didn't support their officers by contradicting the claim.

    Shenher has told the inquiry Pickton was her prime suspect almost four years before his eventual arrest, and she was furious her bosses didn't devote enough resources to the case.

    Shenher has said her theory that a serial killer was at work and Pickton was a prime suspect were dismissed by her superiors.


  29. Clashing egos hampered Pickton probe, missing women inquiry hears


    VANCOUVER — The stories seem to come straight from a seedy TV cop drama.

    "Cowboy" drug cops out for glory. Investigators with tunnel vision hiding information from colleagues. Investigations hindered by cops who can't stand one another.

    If true, the stories heard Thursday at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry may explain the lack of direction and professionalism in the VPD's investigation into Robert Pickton and other suspects.

    The inquiry has heard already of an allegedly disruptive pair of investigators who were "super racist."

    On Thursday it heard the two allegedly hid important information about Robert Pickton while focusing on their own favourite suspect, according to the testimony of Det. Const. Lori Shenher.

    Shenher testified that Const. Doug Fell and Const. Mark Wolthers had been added to her team of investigators in 1999 after they approached then-Deputy Chief Const. Brian McGuinness with a suspect.

    Shenher said McGuinness was "excited" but her immediate superiors were not happy that he endorsed Fell and Wolthers and pushed them onto the team. Shenher testified she knew their reputation as two tall and brash Downtown Eastside cops who followed their own agenda, allegedly had low regard for sex workers, and didn't make many arrests despite going off the radar on solo missions without answering dispatch calls.

    Shenher said she has learned the two officers canvassed the Downtown Eastside with photos of Pickton that were identified by three women in early 2000, suggesting the prime suspect was active under the VPD's nose, but allegedly the two didn't report that back to her. They had focused on their personal suspect, who was now in Alberta, she said.

    Shenher said there were up to 31 missing women on file, but the two officers were not interested in Pickton, so they would only refer to 22 women. That was the number that fit with their timeline for the Alberta suspect, she said.

    Shenher said the two made "grave" investigative errors and interfered with the team's focus. She said two valued investigators left her unit partly because they could not stand working with the two new cops.

    As an example of the poisonous atmosphere in the small investigative unit, Shenher noted her "stunned" reaction to a story allegedly put forward by Fell and Wolthers.

    The two spoke about a drug arrest of a Vietnamese man, Shenher said. She testified they said they went into his closet and took a bag of white flour and dumped it on the man's head, saying, "now you're white, what do you think about that?"

    Shenher testified there was a meeting with the RCMP in early 2000 about sharing suspect information on the missing women, which was attended by the current RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson. She said Walthers embarrassed the VPD when he forcefully insisted his Lethbridge, Alta. suspect made the "hair on the back of my neck stand up" — although he could not tell Paulson any evidence to back up his suspicions.

    At the time Paulson was a sergeant from Prince Rupert, B.C. with knowledge of the "Highway of Tears" cases, Shenher said.

    A lawyer for Fell and Wolthers challenged Shenher's perceptions of their "cowboy" reputation and work on the file. Shenher allowed that they were hardworking and energetic.

    The two are expected to testify.


  30. Pickton case has all the familiar hallmarks of a police cover-up: lawyer

    Brian Hutchinson, National Post February 3, 2012

    Cameron Ward once had faith in B.C.’s Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, called to examine how police investigated the disappearance of dozens of sex trade workers from Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside. From 1997 to 2002, the period under review, prostitutes were murdered by pig farmer Robert “Willie” Pickton, all along a prime police suspect.

    Mr. Ward is a lawyer who represents the families of 23 missing and murdered women at the inquiry. Five months into public hearings, his faith in the process has crumbled.

    Certain police documents — including notes from their investigations — have not been disclosed. Pages from reports have mysteriously vanished. Police witnesses have offered conflicting accounts of key events. “This case has all the familiar hallmarks of a police cover-up,” says Mr. Ward, choosing his words carefully. “And I’m afraid the inquiry may be enabling it.”

    Why, despite their strong suspicions, their corroborating information from tipsters, and their knowledge of Pickton’s violent history with prostitutes, did police wait years to stop the serial killer? Who knew what, and when did they know it? Mr. Ward doubts the inquiry will answer those questions, because they involve high-ranking police officers and others with too much to lose.

    Pieces of the story emerged at Pickton’s marathon murder trial in 2007. He was convicted on six counts of second-degree murder. But another 20 murder charges were stayed after the killer was sentenced to life in prison. Pickton suggested himself that he had murdered 49 women.

    The inquiry may be the last chance to air everything, Mr. Ward says. “I vowed in my opening [statement] to assist the commission in prying the lid off this case and exposing the truth,” he says. “I’ll keep trying, but it seems to be an uphill battle.”

    He is plainly at odds with other inquiry lawyers, most of whom represent police officers, and with inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal, a former B.C. attorney general. Time and again at the inquiry, Mr. Ward and commissioner Oppal have clashed.

    It’s not Mr. Oppal’s job to retry Willie Pickton. His mandate is to examine the botched police investigations, and to determine why, in 1998, a decision was made by B.C.’s criminal justice branch to stay charges of attempted murder and unlawful confinement against Pickton, after his near-fatal stabbing of a Vancouver prostitute at his farm. Mr. Oppal is also to recommend how police can improve future investigations.

    With an eye on the clock, Mr. Oppal has imposed an April 30 deadline on the inquiry’s hearings phase, and he aims to produce a report, with his recommendations, to the province by the end of June.

    Meanwhile, Mr. Ward raises his ire by attempting to explore every conceivable angle. This week, he was chastised for asking Vancouver police officer Lori Shenher questions about a 320-page manuscript she had written about the Pickton case, soon after the killer’s 2002 arrest, and about her role as scriptwriter and technical advisor on the CBC television series Da Vinci’s Inquest, which often dramatized Vancouver’s missing women cases.

    Detective-Constable Shenher was the Vancouver Police Department’s lead investigator on the missing women files until she “burned out” in late 2000. She took some leave and considered quitting the VPD. “I just thought I couldn’t commit to a place that didn’t know its ass from a hole in the ground,” she told the inquiry this week.

    Her own records from the investigation — such as detailed logbooks — have not been made available to the inquiry; apparently, the RCMP has possession of them and won’t let go. Her lengthy Pickton manuscript could prove a useful substitute, Mr. Ward said. He has requested the manuscript be disclosed.

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    He has also asked that 20 names be added to the inquiry’s confidential witness list. Key police informants should be called to testify, he says. After all, they directed police to Pickton and his farm years before he was finally apprehended and charged with serial murders. As well, Mr. Ward wants to hear from the RCMP corporal who obtained a warrant to search Pickton’s farm in 2002, and from RCMP Commissioner Robert Paulson; he was a local sergeant “extensively involved in the missing women investigations” during the period under review, Mr. Ward says. He also wants the inquiry to hear from Pickton’s brother David, who lived on the farm when the murders were being committed, when bodies were being ground to pieces and then buried on the property.

    Mr. Oppal has yet to rule on his requests. An inquiry source says they will all be denied.

    Mr. Ward has made an issue of police disclosure, or lack of it. He has demanded from police witnesses their “notes and records made of meetings of senior government officials during the late 1990s, when Pickton was the prime suspect in the women’s disappearances.” Production of such documents at public inquiries is routine. Not at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry. Contemporaneous police notes and records of key events and pivotal meetings have disappeared, without explanation.

    Mr. Ward has identified two important, back-to-back meetings that police attended early in 1999. Pickton was by then squarely in their sights, but little was being done to investigate him thoroughly. Public pressure was mounting; local politicians were feeling heat from reporters and relatives of missing women. One presentation, in April, was conducted for Ujjal Dosanjh, then B.C.’s attorney general and solicitor general. At least two other sitting Cabinet ministers and their aides attended the meeting, the inquiry has heard. The gathering was meant to bring the politicians up to speed on the missing women investigations, and to discuss the possibility of making cash rewards available for information useful to police.

    No notes from that meeting have been produced for the inquiry. Apparently, none exist. Mr. Ward finds that remarkable. So does Vancouver Police Department officer Lori Shenher; she was, at the time, the VPD’s lead missing women investigator. She attended the meeting. In fact, she briefed Mr. Dosanjh and the other Cabinet ministers. Testifying at the inquiry this week, she agreed that records of such an important event would likely have been made.

    Mr. Ward asked her if Pickton was mentioned.

    “I honestly don’t recall,” Det.-Const. Shenher replied.

    “But you told [a police officer last year] that three suspects were discussed?”

    “Yes,” agreed Det.-Const. Shenher. “But later I realized that was wrong…. I had the impression that Mr. Pickton was discussed. I’m really not able to say for certain.”

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    A month later, in May 1999, missing women investigators held a police-only “brainstorming session” inside a VPD boardroom. In attendance were 18 RCMP members and Vancouver officers, including Det.-Const. Shenher and Doug LePard, then an up-and-coming sergeant, and now the VPD’s deputy chief. Once again, it seems that no one took notes. None have been found.

    In November, Mr. Ward quizzed Deputy-Chief LePard about the May meeting. Was Pickton discussed as a suspect?

    “I’m actually quite confident that [he] wasn’t brought up because that would have piqued my interest and many others,” he testified, “and in fact, I think it would have changed the focus of the meeting to [be] talking about that information.”

    But Pickton was discussed at the meeting, and “at length,” Det.-Const. Shenher told the inquiry this week. An RCMP “continuation report” from April 1999 does more than just confirm it; the report indicates that police actually decided to stop their investigation.

    “Pickton [the name is underlined] was discussed at this meeting,” reads the report, which Mr. Ward has entered as an inquiry exhibit. “At this time no active work will be conducted on Pickton [underlined again]…. At this time this file will be concluded and re-opened if necessary.”

    Who made this decision, and why? With time running out, the inquiry hasn’t heard.


  33. Pickton under surveillance 3 years before arrest

    The Canadian Press February 6, 2012

    A police request form for surveillance of Robert Pickton more than three years before he was arrested for multiple murders turned out to be eerily accurate, the missing women inquiry has heard. The first RCMP officer to investigate Pickton told the inquiry Monday he filled out the form, asking that officers watch Pickton in September 1998. Mike Connor, who's now retired, but was then a corporal at the Coquitlam, B.C. detachment, testified that he wrote the request but that his claims were of "unknown reliability."

    "You said Pickton was believed to be picking up prostitutes and apparently taking them to his home where he killed them," commission counsel Art Vertlieb asked Connor. "There's a statement that the subject intimated that he disposes of bodies in a food grinder and feeds the remains ...," Vertlieb said, leaving his sentence unfinished."Correct," Connor replied. Connor agreed.

    The document also said Pickton had numerous female purses and identification on the farm that he apparently used as trophies. Connor said he received the information from a source who had heard second hand about the horror taking place on the farm. "It needed to be considered and acted upon," Connor said of the information. Evidence revealed much later at Pickton's trial proved the source was incredibly accurate, but the 30 days of police surveillance turned up no proof that Pickon was trolling Vancouver's Downtown Eastside for his victims, most of them sex-trade workers.

    The inquiry — which is examining the police actions around the Pickton investigation — has already heard police missed several opportunities to stop Pickton but failed. Pickton was convicted of killing six women, but the DNA of 33 women was found on his farm. Connor's source was Bill Hiscox, who told police he had learned the information from Lisa Yelds, who was a good friend of Pickton. Connor said Yelds was a "cop hater" and a Nazi sympathizer, and they didn't think they would get the information from her unless they conducted an undercover operation. Hiscox had volunteered in late 1998 to help with the undercover operation by introducing Yelds to an officer. But weeks later Hiscox disappeared and nothing was done to get more information from Yelds. "He had fallen off the map," Connor told the inquiry.

    More than a dozen women disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside between the end of 1998 and when Pickton was arrested in February, 2002. The DNA of 11 of those women was found on the farm. Pickton was already on Connor's radar because he had been arrested in the 1997 attack on a Downtown Eastside sex-trade worker on his Port Coquitlam, B.C., farm. Charges of attempted murder and unlawful confinement were later dropped against Pickton.

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    Connor testified that he was told by the Crown that the case wouldn't go ahead because the victim was a severe heroin addict and without her testimony the likelihood of conviction wasn't there. He admitted during his testimony that he regrets not pushing parts of the investigation. "That's the second time you've mentioned 'thinking back.' Have you done that many times over the last number of years since Pickton was arrested," Vertlieb asked. "I think about this file daily," Connor replied.

    His testimony comes on the same day that a lawyer for several family members of missing women claimed the commission was enabling a police coverup of the Pickton investigation. Cameron Ward complained many key documents had not been disclosed at the inquiry and no one mentioned that the lead Vancouver police investigator in the case has written a book. Ward has applied to see the manuscript for the unpublished book. "I need to assist you Mr. Commissioner in taking all steps necessary to ensure that this coverup is not perpetuated further," Ward told Commissioner Wally Oppal. "I do believe that unless this commission exercises its powers and duty under the inquiry act, it will enable the police to cover up their involvement in these important matters."

    Oppal, a former B.C. Appeal Court judge and former attorney general of B.C., bristled at the claim. "That any such suggestion may have been made is disturbing," Oppal said. "There is absolutely no evidence that the commission may be 'enabling a coverup."'

    Vancouver Police lawyer Tim Dickson said the department is at the inquiry in openness and good faith, wants all the facts to come out, and there's nothing resembling a coverup.


  35. Pickton traumatized by prostitute’s attack in 1997

    by TAMSYN BURGMANN The Canadian Press February 07, 2012

    Robert Pickton shook, shuddered and said he was traumatized while describing his claim that a prostitute pulled a knife on him five years before he was arrested for the serial killing of dozens of sex trade workers.

    Video of a January 2000 police interview with the Port Coquitlam, B.C., pig farmer was shown Tuesday at the public inquiry looking into the police investigation of Mr. Pickton involving the missing women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

    “She attacked me,” says a baseball cap-clad Mr. Pickton, suggesting she was after $3,500 he was carrying. “She should have been charged.”In the footage, RCMP Constables Ruth Yurkiw and John Carter question Mr. Pickton about what happened during the attack on the night of March 23, 1997, when both he and the woman were sent to hospital.

    Mr. Pickton relays his version of the events, saying he picked the woman up in his truck after she stumbled and fell into the road.

    He brings her back to his home, where he says she injected drugs in the bathroom at least twice.

    Then she goes into his kitchen, finds a six-inch knife on the table and pulls it on him, he claimed.

    He runs his fingers across his neck and chest to demonstrate where he was slashed.

    “I never want to think of that day again,” he says, shaking his head and rocking in his chair.

    Constable Carter prompts him for more details.

    “We're asking because clearly it was a traumatic event for you, and usually those things tend to stick out in your mind,” he says.

    “It was a terrifying event for me. I was down for almost two months in hospital,” Mr. Pickton responds, exhaling deeply. “I couldn't work, I couldn't do anything. My back still bothers me.”

    He goes on to say he went to the police station to report the incident first. He insists he never brought another prostitute into his trailer again.

    Thirteen women disappeared between the time those charges were dropped against Mr. Pickton and when the DNA of 11 of them was uncovered on his farm.

    During Mr. Pickton's trial, the jury never viewed the interview footage. They also did not hear anything about the previous attempted murder and unlawful confinement charges laid against Mr. Pickton in relation to that night's attack. They were never told those charges were eventually dropped.

    The woman's side of the story, which police believed, was not revealed until after Mr. Pickton's trial, as it was under a court-ordered ban.

    The inquiry has heard she was handcuffed on one hand and fought off Mr. Pickton, running naked to the road and flagging down a car. She died while under care but was revived.

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    The nearly 12-minute excerpt was shown to retired RCMP officer Mike Connor while he was under cross-examination by the lawyer representing the families of Mr. Pickton's victims.

    Mr. Connor was the RCMP's lead investigator into Mr. Pickton in the late 1990s, when an informant had provided second-hand information that a woman had been butchered in the man's barn.

    He also took the reins with his partner the night the call came in about the nearly-fatal attack on the prostitute, who has been only known as Witness 97 or Anderson, which is not her real name.

    Mr. Connor had previously testified he was told by the Crown the case wouldn't go ahead because the victim was a severe heroin addict, and without her testimony the likelihood of conviction wasn't there.

    Considering all Mr. Connor knew about Mr. Pickton, including various eerie details laid out by sources in his investigations “and the obvious lies coming out of Willie Pickton himself, why didn't you and the RCMP deal with this man and stop him?” lawyer Cameron Ward asked.

    Mr. Connor noted it was no longer his file after he was promoted in August 1999.

    “There were assigned investigators and there were supervisors in place,” he said. “I can't speak to their decisions as to why or why not they did or didn't do something. I wasn't there.”

    In earlier testimony, Mr. Connor told the inquiry he had fingered Mr. Pickton as “the bad guy” for several years prior to the man's February 2002 arrest and even made his own copies of the investigation file which he stored in a safe.

    He took the precautions over concerns the file might go missing when he handed it over to the joint RCMP-Vancouver Police investigation into the missing women.

    Mr. Connor is now retired but continues to do some contract work for the RCMP.

    The inquiry has previously heard that files kept by Lori Shenher, the Vancouver Police Department's lead investigator into the missing women's case, were not returned to her in their entirety.

    Mr. Ward told the inquiry he has learned that the Crown has not retained the file on the charges relating to the sex trade worker who survived an attack at the Pickton farm, despite a file-retention policy of 75 years for all criminal files involving serious personal injury.

    Nearly five years after the 1997 attack, officers searched Mr Pickton’s farm acting on a search warrant looking for illegal firearms.

    The warrant led to one of the biggest police investigations in Canadian history and uncovered the remains or DNA of 33 women. Mr. Pickton was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder.


  37. RCMP hearings need independent oversight, says lawyer

    by CBC News February 8, 2012

    The lawyer for a female British Columbia Mountie who accused her boss of sexual assault says RCMP disciplinary hearings should be subject to independent oversight.

    Walter Kosteckyj says he is unhappy with the easy ride he believes the police force is giving Const. Susan Gastaldo's superior, Staff Sgt. Travis Pearson.

    Pearson admitted to using his patrol car and police Blackberry smartphone to carry on an extramarital affair with Gastaldo in 2009, while he was her superior.

    Last month, RCMP adjudicators rejected Gastaldo's allegations the affair amounted to rape because Pearson used his position of authority to coerce her. It found the sex was consensual.

    But during a break at Pearson's disciplinary hearing in Vancouver on Wednesday, Kosteckyj accused the adjudication panel of bias.

    "There should be an independent tribunal that takes a look at these things, which is really made up of people outside the RCMP," he said.

    Kosteckyj is also upset the RCMP has allowed Pearson's own psychologist to testify on his behalf when it already had a report from an independent expert, whose evidence he believes was disregarded.

    The adjudicators have found both officers guilty of disgraceful conduct for having sex in a police car and misusing RCMP equipment to send romantic text messages.

    While Pearson is facing sanctions ranging from suspension to a demotion, Gastaldo could lose her job.

    With files from the CBC's Mike Clarke


  38. Pickton investigators needed break that never came

    The Canadian Press February 9, 2012

    The first RCMP officer to launch an investigation focusing on Robert Pickton says he just couldn't gather enough firm evidence required to launch a full-scale investigation of the suspected killer. Mike Conner, now retired, told the Missing Women Inquiry underway in Vancouver on Wednesday that all the clues pointing to a Port Coquitlam pig farmer as the killer of women missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside were adding up. But then the RCMP "terminated" the operation scrutinizing Pickton in the late 1990s because the province's major crimes unit thought it had "no validity" and a ranking officer determined it was getting too expensive, stated one account written three days after Pickton's arrest.

    Conner agreed with remarks in the note that work on the file had petered out to his "great reluctance," but he also agreed with the suggestion of a lawyer for the victims' families that lack of resources was not an issue.

    "Willie Pickton, in your mind, was the man responsible for the deaths of the sex trade workers who were going missing from Downtown Vancouver," said lawyer Cameron Ward. "You sir, as the investigator here, you did put two and two together, and it made four for you."

    Connor agreed, concurring that hypothesis only got stronger in his mind between August 1998 and July 1999. In the days after the serial killer's arrest in February 2002, RCMP scrambled to explain why they weren't more aggressive in zeroing in on Pickton, notes presented by Ward at the inquiry showed. By that time, he had received apparently credible — though second-hand — information from several informants. Connor had already attempted once to take Pickton down on the 1997 attempted murder of a sex trade worker. The charge was dropped. Police interviewed Pickton again in 2000 about the attempted murder, in a profanity-laced interview publicly released Wednesday.

    Connor testified he was so sure Pickton merited aggressive investigation that he got all his ducks in a row. Connor went out on his own to conduct surveillance on Pickton's farm after midnight for upwards of 30 occasions hoping to catch the man committing a crime, the inquiry heard. He also prepared a draft affidavit in summer 1999 to immediately trigger a search warrant, but the opportunity still failed to present itself.

    Ward asked Connor why, with all the pieces stacking up, the RCMP "failed to stop" Pickton's killing spree from August 1998 until his eventual apprehension. "It's certainly a difficult question to answer. I don't know that failed would be the correct word to use," Connor replied, adding many people tried "very hard" to gather the necessary evidence. "We couldn't get that break, to have that definitive evidence that we could launch an investigation the size of what Evenhanded had done a couple of years later. As I mentioned, we just couldn't get that break."

    Project Evenhanded was a joint RCMP-Vancouver Police that later investigated the missing women. Connor, who continues to do contract work for the RCMP, left the case in another officer's hands when he was promoted in August 1999. Considering the huge manpower that was plowed into searching Pickton's farm when police finally gained grounds related to an illegal firearms allegation, a lack of resources could not have been the reason the case went on the back burner, Ward suggested to Connor.

    "Absolutely," Connor said. "If I needed more resources to do things when I was doing investigation, I would have got them." The same would have been true for the officer who took over, he said. "If they had a break to move that investigation forward, if she needed more resources, she could have got them." [...]


  39. Lawyer links serial killer Pickton, Hells Angels at inquiry


    VANCOUVER — Just as he was warming up to theories regarding Pickton's associations with drug dealing bikers, lawyer Jason Gratl was shut down by Commissioner Wally Oppal, who was clearly perturbed.

    Gratl was cross-examining RCMP Cpl. Mike Connor, the force's lead investigator on Pickton.

    Connor admitted that he received a tip that a Hells Angel associate who worked in a "booze can" after-hours drinking club across the street from Pickton's Port Coquitlam, B.C., property "was chopped up in a meat grinder on the farm and fed to the pigs."

    Connor said police knew Hells Angels went to Pickton's farm and attended "Piggy's Palace" — the nearby illicit nightclub run by Pickton and his brother Dave.

    However, Connor said he did not investigate the credibility of the allegation a male Hells Angel associate was disposed of on Pickton's farm.

    During Pickton's trial, lab staff testified that about 80 unidentified DNA profiles — roughly half male and half female — have shown up on evidence.

    The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry has heard unanswered questions from lawyer Cameron Ward, who represents the victims' families, as to whether police were reluctant to investigate Pickton because of his connections and other ongoing investigations.

    On Thursday Gratl tried to ask Connor if sex workers were reluctant to talk to police about Pickton because they feared Hells Angels and their activities in the Downtown Eastside, including alleged torture of sex workers and drug dealing.

    However Oppal cut in, telling Gratl he did not see the relevance of the Hells Angels questioning, and asked a government lawyer if she would like to rise to object.

    The lawyer, who represents the RCMP, said she would object if he spoke about investigations that should not be revealed to the hearing.

    Gratl stopped the line of questioning. Outside the hearing he said that Downtown Eastside residents believe a key systemic issue that hindered the investigation is that sex workers would never open up to police because Hells Angels controlled the neighbourhood.

    Meanwhile, the source that helped police target Robert Pickton told the Vancouver Province Thursday that police "had Pickton in 1997 and just let him go."

    Bill Hiscox told police in August 1998 that he had learned from Lisa Yelds, a good friend of Pickton who was a "cop hating . . . biker . . . Nazi," that sex workers were being killed and chopped up and disposed of on Pickton's farm and he was keeping "trophies."

    Hiscox said Vancouver Police Department Det. Const. Lori Shenher and RCMP Cpl. Mike Connor, who worked with Hiscox in 1998, did their best but "both of them kind of had their hands tied."

    "I think it had a lot to do with higher-ups," Hiscox said.


  40. Pickton inquiry gives cold shoulder to key witness

    Brian Hutchinson, National Post February 13, 2012

    Despite all that he knew, despite his efforts to assist police during their tragically flawed investigation of serial killer Robert “Willie” Pickton, despite his willingness to answer any question put to him now, in the long-overdue search for the truth, Bill Hiscox will not be heard at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.

    He’s not on the inquiry’s private list of potential witnesses. He’s been cast aside again, and he can’t understand why.

    Lately, Mr. Hiscox has sat in the inquiry room gallery, where he watches. He listens to contradictory accounts from police, and he shakes his head in frustration.

    Mr. Hiscox knew Pickton. He performed manual labour for the creepy pig farmer and spent time on his messy acreage in Port Coquitlam. “I would get this really eerie feeling there,” Mr. Hiscox told the National Post, in an interview conducted outside the inquiry room. “It’s hard to explain. I picked up some bad vibes. Mark it up to intuition.”

    That, and an offer he says Pickton once made to him. If he ever needed to dispose of a body, Pickton told him, just use the wood chipper.

    By summer 1998, Mr. Hiscox had come to some grotesque – and correct, it turned out – conclusions: Pickton was responsible for Vancouver’s missing sex trade workers. He was luring women to his farm, murdering them, cutting up their bodies and disposing of the pieces.

    He did the right thing. Mr. Hiscox went to police, who took him very seriously. Indeed, he became their main man, their most compelling source of information. Yes, he was a drug user. But he was reliable and he never asked for any favours. “He had a moral compass,” recalled Vancouver police officer Lori Shenher, during her testimony last month. “I think his only motivation was to do the right thing.”

    Mr. Hiscox had even agreed to participate in an undercover operation designed to pry additional, first-hand information from one of Pickton’s closest associates, a cop-hating biker named Lisa Yelds. Mr. Hiscox knew the woman well; she was his step-sister. They both had deep, informed suspicions about Pickton, and they shared them with each other.

    Ms. Yelds once related how she’d seen bloody clothing inside Pickton’s trailer, and pieces of identification for as many as 10 women. Mr. Hiscox passed the information to police, who found it compelling. They just needed to hear it directly from Ms. Yelds, hence the proposed undercover operation. It could lead to a search warrant, and maybe an arrest.

    But nothing happened. The police stopped calling Mr. Hiscox. He called them. Still nothing. By mid-1999, the investigation had gone off the rails, for reasons that Missing Women Inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal must try to determine.

    Pickton, we know, continued killing. He was not arrested until 2002. Five years later, he was convicted on six counts of second degree murder. Another 20 murder charges were stayed.

    Why did police drop the ball with Mr. Hiscox, and fail to pursue Ms. Yelds for her first-hand accounts of the Pickton farm? It’s a crucial question. Police give conflicting answers.

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    Last month, the inquiry heard how Mr. Hiscox had repeatedly contacted his VPD “handler,” Detective Constable Shenher, to the point of “harassment.”

    Not so, Det. Const. Shenher testified. In fact, she said, contact was broken off, for two reasons. “He had shown himself to be someone who would contact me if he had something new,” she told associate commission counsel Karey Brooks, in direct examination. “Secondly, I didn’t want to push him on [the undercover operation] because he was in recovery himself and he had indicated to me at varying times that he was trying to stay away from that, that world.”

    In other words, police wasted an opportunity to collect information that could have led them to arrest Pickton before 2002. Women’s lives might have been saved.

    “The upshot of all of this,” inquiry lawyer Cameron Ward put to the officer, “is that unique, compelling, credible evidence from Hiscox never got used, right?”

    “I suppose not,” conceded Det. Const. Shenher.

    Her RCMP counterpart at the time was Mike Connor, a veteran homicide investigator based in Coquitlam. Like Det. Const. Shenher, he considered Mr. Hiscox to be a reliable source of credible information. But he has a rather different impression of why investigators quit using their best source, and why their proposed undercover operation – a “good idea,” in his own words – never happened.

    “I couldn’t do any more work with Mr. Hiscox without the assistance of the VPD and Mr Hiscox himself,” Mr. Connor told the inquiry last week. “The only information I was getting [from the VPD] was that ‘Hiscox can’t be found.’ “

    Mr. Connor was also told, at various times in late 1998 and early in 1999, that Mr. Hiscox “was unavailable,” that he “had some problems,” that “he couldn’t help us,” that “he had fallen off the map,” and that Det. Const. Shenher “didn’t know where he was.”

    Nonsense, Mr. Hiscox told the National Post.

    “I was going through drug rehab, trying to get my life back in order,” he said. “But falling off their radar? I find that difficult to believe. I had a criminal record. I was on probation at the time. The police could have found me any time they wanted. I was always available for them. And I would have done whatever it took to help them arrest this man. Without hesitation, I would have put myself at risk to do that.”

    He says he’s still available, should the inquiry ever wish to hear from him. It was two months ago that lawyer Cameron Ward requested that Mr. Hiscox be added to the witness list, along with Pickton’s brother David, who lived on the family farm while murders were being committed there. While Mr. Oppal has not ruled on the requests, a senior inquiry source says they will be rejected. The commissioner is not obliged to explain his decisions to the public, for whom the inquiry was called.


  42. Pickton was not sole suspect in women's deaths

    The Canadian Press February 16, 2012

    Robert Pickton was just one of a growing list of "hideous" people who were considered prime suspects in the disappearance of Vancouver sex workers in the year before his arrest, says an RCMP officer who led one of several investigations into the case.

    And while in hindsight, Pickton appears to have been the best and only suspect worth looking into, retired Staff Sgt. Don Adam said police needed to investigate every suspect to determine whether they were linked to the disappearances.

    Adam made the statements at the Missing Women Inquiry underway in Vancouver on Wednesday. The inquiry is looking at the police mishandling of the investigation into serial killer Robert Pickton.

    Adam led a joint RCMP-Vancouver police task force known as Project Evenhanded, which was formed in January 2001. Within a few months, the list of viable suspects had ballooned into the hundreds, he said.

    "This file was full of hideous human beings, and they needed to be looked at," Adam testified Wednesday at the public inquiry into the Pickton case.

    "If you think of Mr. Pickton as a bright red ball, you can move that ball anywhere in this room and none of us will miss where it is," he said. "But if you brought in 30 red balls, suddenly it's not so easy. By February, there are 60 of them. When Evenhanded had fully assessed everyone, there are 374 of those balls."

    Adam outlined a number of challenges faced by Project Evenhanded investigators between January 2001 and Pickton's arrest in February 2002, including the massive list of suspects, the team's mistaken belief that women were no longer disappearing, and the lack of a centralized DNA databank for missing people.

    Project Evenhanded was among three separate but related investigations involving Vancouver police and the RCMP.

    Vancouver police were investigating the disappearance of sex workers from the city's Downtown Eastside while the RCMP detachment in Port Coquitlam, where Pickton lived, was looking at Pickton as a suspect.

    Project Evenhanded was created to compile cases of missing sex workers, identify potential suspects and search for links using DNA and other evidence.

    A long list of suspects who had previously sexually assaulted, abused or murdered sex workers quickly emerged, Adam said. Tips implicating Pickton surfaced as early as 1998, but Adam said investigators couldn't focus on a single suspect because they were working on the theory that there were several serial killers. That theory turned out to be correct, Adam pointed out, as some women on their list were connected to killers other than Pickton.

    Adam also rejected the suggestion that Project Evenhanded was merely a historical review, rather than an active investigation.

    "That's just not true," he said.

    "Because of the nature of what I needed to do, there definitely needed to be file reviews [of Vancouver police missing persons cases]. I immediately realized that initiative needed to co-exist with another initiative, and that is investigation."

    Still, Adam conceded his team didn't realize women were still disappearing from the Downtown Eastside for many months after they started their work.

    Adam said investigators realized their mistake in August, when a member of the team realized that Patricia Johnson vanished in the spring of that year. Johnson was reported missing in May 2001, but for reasons that Adam couldn't explain, the documents that Project Evenhanded initially relied on incorrectly stated she hadn't been seen since 1994.

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    Adam said August marked a "watershed moment" that prompted his team to change their focus, but a previous witness suggested it took even longer for Project Evenhanded investigators to realize women were still disappearing.

    Deputy Chief Jennifer Evans of the Peel Regional Police, who conducted an external review for the inquiry, noted log entries from investigators as late as mid-October indicated Project Evenhanded had yet to realize women were still disappearing, and she wrote that it wasn't clear when that changed.

    Another factor Adam pointed to was the lack of a national DNA databank for missing people, which meant there was no central database to house DNA profiles of the missing women. That left no way to quickly compare DNA profiles if remains were found.

    At the time, the only national databases were for convicted offenders and DNA samples collected at crime scenes, so there was no searchable missing persons database.

    Adam noted that more than a decade later, nothing has changed.

    "I know [the federal government] has been talking about a missing persons DNA databank since 2000," he said. "It's not for me to get bitter, they simply don't have the legislation.

    "I just pray that you can fix that," he added, speaking directly to commissioner Wally Oppal.

    In the end, none of the formal investigations into Pickton and the missing women cracked the case.

    Pickton was caught essentially by accident in February 2002, when a Port Coquitlam RCMP officer who wasn't on any of those investigations obtained a search warrant on a tip about illegal firearms.

    Project Evenhanded investigators tagged along and immediately stumbled upon the remains and belongings of missing sex workers.

    The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his farm, although he was only convicted of six counts of second-degree murder. He claimed to have killed a total of 49 women.


  44. Pickton sightings chill Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

    Brian Hutchinson, National Post February 17, 2012

    VANCOUVER — By all accounts, David Pickton was the dominant brother. He was not blind to everything that went on at the family pig farm, where he lived with his younger sibling, Willie.

    David was boss. He would tell Willie when to go to bed, a police investigator was once told. It was David, police alleged, who said that he knew where bodies had been buried. “I know it’s over for Willie,” one officer recalled him saying, when the Port Coquitlam farm was finally searched in 2002. The remains of dozens of women were found scattered about the property. Willie was held responsible, no one else.

    David was never charged in connection with his brother’s long killing spree, nor was he called to testify at Willie’s ensuing serial murder trial. To the chagrin of the victims’ families, he is not scheduled to appear at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, underway in Vancouver. He hasn’t set foot in the hearing room. But according to reports, Mr. Pickton has been spotted of late in the Downtown Eastside, the same downtrodden neighbourhood where his brother’s murder victims worked in the sex trade.

    Since November, notices warning of David Pickton’s presence have been posted in local shelters and drop-in centres. More notices appeared in the neighbourhood this week.

    “He’s been in the area and he’s been talking to women,” said the director of a large social housing agency that operates in the Downtown Eastside.

    “We’re not aware that he’s caused any trouble, but our staff is supporting women who want to speak to police about him. The women are scared,” added the director, who spoke to the National Post on the condition her name not be published.

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    Asked if local officers were aware of the concerns about David Pickton, Vancouver Police Department spokeswoman Jana McGuinness emailed this response: “Last fall posters and information were being disseminated by people in the Downtown Eastside about a specific individual. Our investigation at the time did not support the issuing of a public warning.” Constable McGuinness added that she has not been made aware of any recent Pickton sightings.

    In 1992, Mr. Pickton was convicted of sexual assault, fined $1,000, given 30 days probation, and ordered to have no contact with the assault victim. He could not be reached for comment Thursday.

    In 2009, with Willie behind bars, Mr. Pickton and his sister, Linda Wright, sued the RCMP for damages allegedly caused by police investigations conducted on family-owned properties. “The RCMP disturbed, disrupted, killed and destroyed various plants, trees, groundcovers and other vegetation and the fish in the pond,” reads the lawsuit, filed in B.C. Supreme Court. The matter has not been resolved.

    Mr. Pickton is frequently discussed at the Missing Women inquiry. Police witnesses have described how he ran a notorious after-hours drinking establishment near the farm, called Piggy’s Palace. It was frequented by motorcycle gang members and their associates, and was occasionally rented out for private events, the inquiry has heard.

    Cameron Ward, lawyer for the families of 25 missing and murdered women, has asked inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal to add Mr. Pickton to his witness list. “A proper inquiry must include testimony from this central character,” noted Mr. Ward.

    The commission has a mandate to examine how police forces conducted their investigations into cases of women reported missing from the Downtown Eastside, and to determine why B.C.’s criminal justice branch decided to stay charges of attempted murder and unlawful confinement against Willie Pickton in 1998.

    David “was well known to police, and was considered a person of interest during the missing women investigations,” Mr. Ward noted in his submission. “He co-owned the Picktons’ properties [including the farm] …which were known by the police to be hives of illegal activity, including cockfighting, illicit alcohol and drug use, prostitution and petty theft… Women’s remains were found on land that David Pickton occupied with his brother …. Did off-duty police officers, politicians or other high-profile members of the community attend events at the infamous Piggy’s Palace?”

    Mr. Oppal has yet to rule on the request; however, a senior commission counsel has told the National Post it will be denied.


  46. Pickton probe limited by tight Vancouver budget

    Ex-chief says he was rebuked by mayor for spending on Pickton investigation

    CBC News February 20, 2012

    A former Vancouver police chief has told the Pickton inquiry that budget constraints hampered the investigation into the disappearance of sex trade workers in the city’s Downtown Eastside.

    Terry Blythe said that when he took over as chief in June 1999, he inherited a big financial problem, with 80 per cent of the department's annual budget already spent.

    When city hall refused extra funding for a joint operation with Coquitlam RCMP to investigate pig farmer Robert Pickton, Blythe said he went ahead and spent some money without approval.

    That earned him a rebuke from then-mayor Phillip Owen, Blythe said.

    “’We should not be outside of Vancouver doing anything,’” he quoted Owen as saying. “He was pretty upset about that."

    Pickton, arrested in 2002, was convicted in 2007 of the murders of six women, although the DNA or remains of 33 women were found on his property.

    The inquiry is trying to determine why it took as long as it did for the RCMP and the Vancouver police to catch up to Pickton.

    High-profile legal representation
    Blythe has brought in well-known criminal lawyer Edward Greenspan of Toronto to represent him at the inquiry.

    On Monday, Greenspan walked his client through some questioning meant to counter some of the allegations of police disinterest that the inquiry has heard so far.

    "There have been suggestions that the police department didn't make the effort it should have investigating the missing women, because many of the women were from the Downtown Eastside and were sex trade workers and were aboriginal,” Greenspan put it to Blythe.

    “I totally disagree with it,” Blyth said.

    Author Stevie Cameron, who wrote the book On The Farm about the Pickton case, said the presence of Greenspan demonstrates the lengths to which the Vancouver police are willing to go to protect the force’s reputation.

    "It makes me think the police department here must be frantic about their former chief and the other people who will be coming up because they've hired one of the most expensive criminal defence lawyers in the country," Cameron said.

    Greenspan has charged up to $1,200 an hour in fees on some of the cases he’s worked on, Cameron said.


  47. Pickton inquiry shifts to controversial format

    The Canadian Press February 22, 2012

    After 52 days of hearing from police officers and experts who've attempted to shed light on why Robert Pickton was able to kill for so long, the head of the missing women inquiry now wants input from groups of witnesses.

    Commissioner Wally Oppal announced Tuesday that the inquiry will be moving to a panel-style format next week instead of the adversarial single-witness setup that's currently being used.

    "We have spent much time and learned a lot about what went wrong and it is now time to focus more actively on any investigative failures and how they can be prevented in the future," Oppal said.

    He said the inquiry wants to hear from people in the Downtown Eastside from where Pickton took women to be murdered at his Port Coquitlam pig farm.

    Pickton was convicted of killing six women but admitted to an undercover police officer that he murdered 49 women. The DNA or remains of 33 women were found on his property.

    Some family members of the missing women are worried the changes may mean Oppal won't hear from those police officers directly involved in the missing women case.

    Lilliane Beaudoin, whose sister Dianne Rock vanished in 2001, said she wants to hear about what went wrong.

    Lori-Ann Ellis, whose sister-in-law Cara was one of Pickton's victims, added that the only way the police give up any information is if they're pushed.

    "I think if we go with something like this, based on the small amount of knowledge that us family members have been given, that may not be the case and that's a concern to us."

    Oppal said he also wants to hear more from victims' family members, First Nations groups, the Vancouver Police Board and other officials.

    He told the inquiry he wants to focus on how the relationship between the Downtown Eastside community and police can be improved.

    Oppal said his commitment has always been on the safety and security of women, especially those who are marginalized by poverty, working in the sex trade or because they are aboriginal.

    "I am determined to ensure that these women did not die in vain and that positive change resulting in the saving of lives will be the lasting memorial for the missing and murdered women."

    Oppal has pledged to hand in his report by June.

    Victims' families have complained that they haven't been represented properly at the inquiry because the government didn't give them funding for lawyers.

    There are dozens of lawyers at the inquiry, but most of them represent Vancouver police or RCMP officers.

    The announcement of the format change comes on the same day that the inquiry released four reports meant to spark debate about how to protect and police the province's most vulnerable women.

    The reports make dozens of recommendations to improve safety for the women of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and for those who still insist on hitchhiking along northern B.C.'s so-called Highway of Tears.

    There's been a series of unsolved murders along Highway 16, which runs between Prince George and Prince Rupert, and dozens of women disappeared while Pickton stalked the Downtown Eastside.

    The reports recommend police patrolling the highway no longer drive past hitchhikers fitting a certain profile, that a type of Amber Alert be implemented for missing sex trade workers and that more female officers patrol the Downtown Eastside.

    Vertlieb said the goal of such recommendations is to ensure that a potential serial killer is stopped as soon as possible.

    The reports also suggest that a restorative justice plan be created to improve the relationship between police and the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood, which is home to vulnerable people including sex trade workers and drug addicts.


  48. Female Mountie in B.C. suspended seven days for sex in a police car with boss

    By Neal Hall, Vancouver Sun February 24, 2012

    VANCOUVER -- A female Mountie will be docked seven days pay and should receive a medical discharge as punishment for having sex in a police car with her boss, a discipline board ruled Thursday.

    The three-officer RCMP misconduct panel decided not to terminate RCMP Const. Susan Gastaldo after finding her guilty last December of disgraceful conduct.

    But board chair Supt. John Reid was critical of Gastaldo's misconduct, noting she repeatedly lied about having an affair with her boss, including lying to her husband.

    "Her lies are a reflection of her inability to tell the truth," Reid said the cumulative lies and deceit reveal a fundamental character flaw.

    The chair said Gastaldo has lost all credibility and should receive a medical discharge from the force by the commanding officer.

    A medical discharge would allow Gastaldo, a 14-year veteran of the force, to leave the RCMP with pension and other benefits.

    The panel also decided that Gastaldo must continue psychological counselling.

    Gastaldo's lawyer, Larry McGonigal, said outside court that his client will appeal the decision to the national head of the RCMP, Commissioner Bob Paulson.

    He said the discipline board made errors of fact and law by excluding expert medical evidence and ruling this week that there was no reasonable apprehension of bias against Gastaldo, 41.

    A day earlier, McGonigal argued that it would be unfair to terminate his client, who would lose roughly $4 million in future salary and benefits at this point in her career.

    Her boss, Staff Sgt. Travis Pearson, who initiated the sexual relationship, received a penalty earlier this month of being docked 10 days pay, McGonigal pointed out.

    "Okay, we'll give him a $4,000 fine and she can have a $4-million fine," the lawyer said. "Those would be very inconsistent results."

    He also said termination would discourage people within the RCMP from coming forward with sexual harassment complaints, which is the opposite of what new RCMP Commissioner Paulson wants to happen.

    McGonigal said Gastaldo was in an awkward position and initially refused her boss's advances three times, but finally gave in.

    When the relationship began in May 2009, Gastaldo was suffering from emotional health problems and had been on leave from work.

    Pearson was asked to try to get Gastaldo back to work, but instead began a sexual relationship with her as she returned to work part-time.

    The misconduct hearing began last September and heard allegations from Gastaldo that she was coerced into having an affair with Pearson, who was in charge of Special O, which conducts covert surveillance on targets of criminal investigations.

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    The board rejected Gastaldo's claims, which included an allegation of rape, and found the affair was consensual.

    The cases of Pearson and Gastaldo were severed last December after Pearson admitted his wrongdoing.

    Pearson was accused of misusing police equipment — a police vehicle and a BlackBerry — to facilitate the on-the-job affair.

    When Pearson was confronted about the affair by his commanding officer, he lied and said he and Gastaldo were just friends.

    The board chair said earlier that the adjudicators would have demoted Pearson to corporal if the more serious allegation of lying to a superior had been brought before the panel.

    The affair was discovered in August 2009 by Gastaldo's husband, Chris Williams, a former Mountie. He found "sexting" messages on his wife's RCMP BlackBerry.

    The board determined the affair was consensual because of evidence that included 120 phone calls and 160 emails between the two officers from May until August 2009.

    Gastaldo, now on stress leave, has filed a civil lawsuit, alleging that the RCMP offered to drop the discipline proceeding if she dropped her lawsuit.

    The lawsuit is being handled by Walter Kosteckyj, a former RCMP officer and Vancouver lawyer who handled the civil lawsuit filed by the mother of Robert Dziekanski, who died after being repeatedly Tasered and restrained by four Mounties at Vancouver International Airport in 2007.

    The federal Department of Justice, representing the RCMP, reached an out-of-court settlement with Dziekanski's mother.

    The commanding officer of the RCMP in B.C., Assistant Commissioner Craig Callens, issued a statement Thursday, saying he was reviewing the board’s decision.

    “Today the Board sanctioned Const. Gastaldo to a forfeiture of seven days pay, a reprimand and recommended continued counselling. They also recommended that I consider a medical discharge for Const. Gastaldo as defined by the RCMP Act and Regulations,” he said.

    “My responsibility as commanding officer is to review the board’s written decision, and to consider what additional steps may be appropriate in this case.”


  50. Police humiliated prostitute, says victim's sister

    The Canadian Press February 27, 2012

    Police missed a "precious moment" to gain the trust of a half-naked and badly beaten sex-trade worker who walked into their Vancouver-area office, choosing instead to ridicule the woman whose remains were later found on serial killer Robert Pickton's farm, the woman's sister told an inquiry Monday.

    Sarah de Vries was turned back out on to the street to hitchhike to her Downtown Eastside home after the attack that prompted her to seek help from the police, her sister, author Maggie de Vries, told the inquiry into police handling of the Pickton case.

    De Vries said the undated incident was recorded in Sarah's journal sometime before she vanished in 1998 and became one of the 20 women on the list of charges dropped against Pickton.

    'They humiliated her, they sent her back out to experience more violence.'
    —Maggie de Vries, sister of a woman Robert Pickton was charged with murdering
    Maggie de Vries has read her younger sister's journals and wrote a book about her sister, but she kept Sarah's traumatic encounter — first with a "bad date" and then with police — to herself until now.

    De Vries did not specify what police did to ridicule her sister.

    She told the inquiry Sarah described being picked up by a customer in the Downtown Eastside, being taken to a remote location east of Vancouver in Port Moody and then being badly beaten.

    Sarah made it to a police station, de Vries said, but officers there turned her out without even offering the half-naked woman a blanket.

    "It was that moment when she was in dire distress, [it] was the one opportunity perhaps in her whole life that police had to respond in a helpful manner to her," she told Commissioner Wally Oppal.

    Further victimized
    Maggie said police could have demonstrated to her they were there to help, but she was further victimized.

    "Instead, they humiliated her, they sent her back out to experience more violence and they sent a very clear message to her that this wasn't a good idea."

    She said the officers badly misused the precious moment, cementing the distrust those in the Vancouver's Downtown Eastside had against police.

    "You were better off to go straight to the highway and stick out your thumb," Maggie said of her sister's journal entry.

    The inquiry has heard other sex-trade workers in the area where women were disappearing had information about Pickton, but didn't share it with police.

    "I think that had the police taken advantage of all of those moments and built that trust in those relationships, that information might have been more forthcoming," Maggie said.

    "That could have led to Robert Pickton being arrested earlier and that could mean that there'd be women still living and breathing in the world today who are now dead."

    Maggie's testimony comes on the same day RCMP in Burnaby, B.C., say they caught a suspected serial sex offender working the Downtown Eastside. Police went out of their way to indicate they were not letting history repeat itself by not taking attacks on sex-trade workers in the area seriously.

    Twelve charges involving four women have been laid against the man.

    First panel presentation

    Maggie's information was part of a panel presentation to the commission, along with sex-trade activist Jamie Lee Hamilton and Sarah's friend Wayne Leng, who later started a web page about the missing women from the area.

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    Hamilton, a transsexual who started out in Vancouver's sex trade in the 1970s, said the work became much more dangerous when police pressured the women to move to the industrial areas of the city.

    Sex-trade workers were being fined $2,000 just for standing on the street when the City of Vancouver passed a street-activity bylaw, she said.

    Hamilton, who was issued the fine, said that was a lot of money to make up when oral sex was running about $60 and "full service" ranged up to $150.

    By the late 1980s and early 1990s pimps were starting to victimize women, hard drugs were prevalent and police were pushing women to work in the back alleys of the Downtown Eastside.

    "I remember saying [to police]: 'You're not going to be satisfied until we're pushed into the water,"' Hamilton said, who by that time had been working as an advocate for the Downtown Eastside Residents Association.

    Hamilton said the actions by police put sex-trade workers at a much greater risk to be picked up by a serial killer.

    She contradicted testimony given last week by former Vancouver police chief Terry Blythe, who said the department supported Hamilton's safe house.

    Instead she said the police targeted the place she called Grandma's House, a place for sex workers where they could get food, clothing and support.

    "If they were [supportive] they wouldn't have shut us down in the midst of a serial killer roaming the streets of the Downtown Eastside."

    Vancouver Police charged Hamilton with keeping a common bawdy house after a raid in August 2000. The charges were stayed three years later.

    "If the consequence was to put us at further risk of a serial killer, well the mission was accomplished," she told the inquiry.

    The inquiry is looking into why it took so long for police to stop the serial killer before his arrest in 2002.

    Pickton was eventually convicted of killing six women, but confessed to an undercover officer that he murdered 49 women.

    The DNA of 33 women was found on Pickton's pig farm in Port Coquitlam, B.C.


  52. Pickton caught as soon as possible, Mountie says

    The Canadian Press March 1, 2012

    Serial killer Robert Pickton was caught at the earliest chance a police task force had to nab him, said a lead investigator on the missing women case, who says hindsight is prompting critics to overlook the facts at the time.

    Retired Staff Sgt. Don Adam, who headed the Project Evenhanded task force starting in January 2001, told the Missing Women's Commission of Inquiry underway in Vancouver on Wednesday that his joint RCMP-Vancouver Police unit did "capitalize" on the first opportunity that came up.

    In February 2002, his officers accompanied a Mountie who was executing an unrelated search warrant on Pickton's Port Coquitlam, B.C. farm. "Now, somehow, that's become a bad thing in everyone's minds," he testified. "There was no earlier breaks, I don't believe, that we missed."

    The inquiry is examining why the s