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Vancouver police release Pickton report

The Vancouver Police Department on Friday officially released a 400-page report that had already been leaked to the media. Describing the failures of the effort to catch a serial murderer, the report is likely to cause long-term political repercussions.

In its "Key Findings" section, the report by Deputy Chief Constable Doug LePard lists eight conclusions:

1. The VPD should have recognized earlier that there was a serial killer at work and responded appropriately, but the investigation was plagued by a failure at the VPD’s management level to recognize what it was faced with.

2. When the VPD did respond with an investigative unit targeted at investigating the Missing Women as potential serial murders, the investigative team suffered from a lack of resources, poor continuity of staffing, multi-jurisdictional challenges, a lack of training, and a lack of leadership, among other challenges.

3. There was compelling information received and developed by the VPD and the RCMP from August 1998 to late 1999 suggesting that Pickton was the likely killer, and it was sufficient to justify a sustained and intensive investigation. The VPD received the first information about Pickton in July and August 1998, and also received extraordinary information from an unrelated informant in 1999.The information suggested that Downtown Eastside sex trade workers were willingly visiting the Pickton property in Coquitlam and some were being murdered there.

4. The VPD passed on ALL information about Pickton to the RCMP when it received it, because the RCMP had jurisdiction over the investigation of information pertaining to crimes occurring in Coquitlam.

5. The RCMP accepted responsibility for investigating the Pickton information and led an investigation in Coquitlam. This investigation was intensely pursued until mid-1999, but was thereafter essentially abandoned by the RCMP, although the RCMP continued to explicitly assert authority over the investigation. RCMP management appears to have not understood the significance of the evidence they had in 1999 pointing to Pickton, and did not ensure it was collated in such a way as to allow a proper analysis.

6. Notwithstanding the many deficiencies in the VPD investigation, they did not cause the failure of the investigation into Pickton because the RCMP had responsibility for that investigation while the VPD focused on other investigative avenues. If the VPD investigation had been better managed, however, the VPD could have brought more pressure to bear on the RCMP to pursue the Pickton investigation more vigorously.

7. There have been significant improvements in the VPD as a result of the lessons learned from the Missing Women investigation, including better training, analysis, resources, and leadership. There have also been significant improvements in the response to multi-jurisdictional crimes by the VPD, the RCMP, and other police agencies in BC, but other improvements are needed.

8.Had there been a regional police force in the Lower Mainland at the time of the Pickton investigation, the problems created by the multiple policing jurisdictions would have been significantly reduced and a better outcome likely would have resulted – there would have only been one set of organizational priorities.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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