The Vancouver Police Department says it can afford its commitment to enact the recommendations of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, noting it has already acted on many of the issues because of its own 2004 review of the case of serial killer Robert Pickton.
The only recommendation that might result in new costs is the creation of an aboriginal liaison officer position to help native people deal with the force’s missing-persons unit. The force is deciding how to proceed, Constable Randy Fincham said in an e-mail on Monday.
“The VPD will do its best to implement the Commissioner’s recommendations while maintaining the current budget approved by the Vancouver Police Board and the City of Vancouver. This is feasible given the department’s substantial efforts to be proactive in implementing changes following the VPD’s Missing Women’s Investigation Review,” Constable Fincham said.
“It does not appear that the Vancouver Police Department’s current budget will prevent the force from implementing any of the recommendations.”
The force also indicated its support for relevant recommendations through a report on the issue to be presented to Tuesday’s meeting of the Vancouver Police Board, where there may be further discussion of the issue.
“The VPD is committed to moving quickly to implement the Commissioner’s recommendations as they apply to the VPD and to working with the Provincial Government’s report champion, former Lieutenant Governor Steven Point, and other stakeholders in ensuring that all police-relevant recommendations are addressed in a comprehensive and timely fashion,” Deputy Chief Constable Doug LePard said in the report to the police board.
The missing women’s inquiry report was released on Dec. 17, 2012, after months of hearings and testimony from dozens of witnesses. The 1,448-page report included 63 recommendations. Deputy Chief LePard notes that “although broader in scope,” inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal’s report reached conclusions about “deficiencies” in the investigation of missing women from the Downtown Eastside that were consistent with the force’s own Missing Women Investigation Review. That review was completed in 2004 and released in 2010.
Robert Pickton was convicted in 2007 in the deaths of six women and sentenced to life imprisonment. The remains of 33 women were found on his Port Coquitlam farm. In his report, Wally Oppal highlights various failings in the joint VPD-RCMP investigation.
Mr. Oppal said Monday he wasn’t surprised that there were relevant parallels in his report. “I haven’t seen the 2004 [report] but I am not surprised because the VPD took a very refreshing approach to the inquiry. They did a self analysis, which is unusual for a police department to do, in which they were quite critical of their own policing methods during the Pickton investigation. They have been proactive.”
In the long run, he said there may be cost-saving in some changes such as a regional police force – among his recommendations – which could trim costs.
The memo does not include an overall cost figure.
Rob Gordon, the head of the criminology school at Simon Fraser University, said he expects most costs from the inquiry recommendations would arise from the force adjusting its procedures, although expenses could come in retraining staff.
But Prof. Gordon said the cost issue needs to be clear upfront. “It’s critical. If [the response] is not properly resourced, none of this will happen,” he said “I wouldn’t go into a police board without some clear idea of costs.”