VANCOUVER — The Vancouver police will release a report in three weeks attempting to explain why police were so slow to catch Robert Pickton as he hunted women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, and a pair of former officers say both the municipal force and the RCMP should share in the blame.
The internal, 450-page review by the Vancouver Police Department will likely heighten calls for a public inquiry once it’s made public on Sept. 9, detailing what many have long said were the failures of both forces to work together or take reports of missing sex workers seriously.
The RCMP also has an internal report on the way, although it’s not clear when that will be released.
“I think there’s enough blame to go around,” said Doug MacKay-Dunn, who worked for the Vancouver police for three decades and was a staff sergeant in the Downtown Eastside in the 1990s when most of the 26 women Pickton was charged with killing disappeared. “I think it’s a combination of circumstances. I think there’s problems within the department, in terms of egos and hurt feelings, and jurisdictional issues between the (municipal) forces and the RCMP.”
The two forces have faced criticism for years for failing to respond quicker and with more resources when families and friends of sex workers in the Downtown Eastside reported them missing throughout the 1990s.
That criticism intensified earlier this month after a publication ban was lifted in Pickton’s criminal case and Canadians learned Pickton had been accused of trying to kill a prostitute on his Port Coquitlam farm in 1997, but the charges were stayed.
He continued killing, and some have suggested the case should have prompted the RCMP to finger Pickton years before he was finally arrested in 2002.
Pickton was convicted of second-degree murder in the deaths of six women he picked up in Vancouver and killed on his Port Coquitlam farm, although he had been charged with another 20 and the police have linked him to at least 33.
While the Downtown Eastside was the jurisdiction of Vancouver police, Pickton’s farm was in RCMP territory.
MacKay-Dunn said the RCMP has a history of dysfunctional relationships with municipal police forces, which be believes contributed to the lack of information shared between the police forces and their inability to connect the dots sooner.
“The RCMP have always considered themselves to be Canada’s national police force, and the best police force in Canada — period,” said MacKay-Dunn, now a municipal councillor in North Vancouver.
“Anyone that’s not a member of the organization is made of lesser stuff.”
MacKay-Dunn also has plenty of criticism for Vancouver police, especially for ignoring information provided by former inspector Kim Rossmo, a geographic profiling expert who warned the department a serial killer could be at work.
Rossmo, who works in the United States, is among the growing number of people calling for a public inquiry to examine the investigation — a list that also includes former Vancouver police officer Dave Dickson, whose work in the Downtown Eastside focused on helping sex workers.
In the mid-1990s, Dickson compiled a list of 31 women he confirmed had disappeared from the troubled neighbourhood, but the response was mixed.