Saturday, January 29, 2011

Changes needed in RCMP deal

Changes needed in RCMP deal: "Changes needed in RCMP deal

No police force will be immune from problems. The work is difficult, sometimes violent, and decisions often must be made in seconds. Some 9,000 officers are at work in British Columbia; inevitably some will behave badly.

But citizens have a right to demand two things from police -- accountability and a commitment to learn from mistakes and address problems. The RCMP has, so far, failed to meet the required standard.

The force's official response to its handling of the Robert Pickton case is disturbing. It raises serious doubts about the RCMP's willingness to change.

The Vancouver Police Department completed and released a detailed examination of what went wrong -- and what went right -- in the investigation. It set out the department's slow response to reports women were disappearing, its refusal to accept evidence that a serial killer was at work and petty internal rivalries that undermined the investigation. It highlighted the problems created by the fragmented Lower Mainland policing structure.

And the 400-page report found neighbouring RCMP detachments failed to co-operate in a joint investigation, let the file languish for months and wrongly discounted information from a key witness.

With better police work, it concluded, Pickton could have been caught years earlier. The lives of more than a dozen women could have been saved.

The RCMP refused to release its review of the investigation. But Times Colonist reporter Lindsay Kines obtained a heavily censored version of the 27-page report this week under access to information legislation.

Unlike the Vancouver analysis, the internal RCMP found few problems. The RCMP devoted the needed resources to the investigation, relationships with other forces were excellent and all leads were pursued. The review found nothing could have been done differently.

It's astonishing that the RCMP has not conducted a more complete review of its handling of what could be the worst serial murders in Canadian history. Pickton killed repeatedly, over years, before being caught.

The RCMP report, in suggesting nothing could have been done differently, accepts the fact that a new killer could take the same toll.

And the RCMP's failure to conduct a more diligent review betrays an unwillingness to look at its performance, draw lessons and report them publicly.

The RCMP also fails on the accountability test. The force provides policing for about 70 per cent of British Columbians, but has not accepted independent civilian oversight. It does not operate under the police complaint process that applies to municipal forces.

Liberal leadership candidate George Abbott has pledged to ensure independent civilian oversight and establish a panel to review policing in the province.

And he doesn't want the government to sign a new

20-year policing contract with the RCMP until the issues are addressed and the public inquiry into the missing-women case is to be completed.

The current RCMP contract, he says, should be extended for two years past its 2012 expiration date to allow all outstanding issues to be addressed.

Abbott's point is that it can't be just business as usual. It's a position all leadership candidates should support.

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