Vancouver police chief Jim Chu repeated his department’s apology today (December 18) for failing to catch serial killer Robert Pickton sooner.
“On behalf of the Vancouver Police Department, I would again like to say we are sorry to the families and friends of the missing and murdered women,” Chu told reporters. “We could’ve and we should’ve caught Pickton sooner.”
Chu made the comments in response to Wally Oppal’s 1,448-page report released Monday on the B.C. missing women inquiry.
The commissioner concluded that both the Vancouver police and RCMP investigations into the disappearances of women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside were “blatant failures”. Oppal also wrote that “systemic bias” contributed to a failure to prioritize and effectively investigate the missing women cases in the years before Pickton was caught.
"These women were vulnerable," Oppal told reporters Monday. "They were treated as throwaways—unstable, unreliable."
Pickton was arrested in 2002, and was eventually convicted in the second-degree murders of six women. He once told an undercover police officer he had killed 49.
Deputy Chief Const. Doug LePard said the VPD’s missing person policies have since been overhauled.
“We have completely revamped both our missing persons unit and our policies around missing persons investigations, which specifically identify that when we’re dealing with...aboriginal persons that are marginalized, that that requires a high priority response."
Among Oppal’s 63 official recommendations, he called for a regional police force and for the provincial government to enact missing persons legislation to grant quick access to information of individuals reported missing.
LePard praised the latter recommendation, noting currently there are “some real barriers” to accessing information to quickly determine if someone is missing.
When asked about the VPD’s response to the recommendation for a regional police force, Chu said the “questions and answers have been talked about for decades”.
“Right now I think it’s up to the political leaders to make some decisions,” he said.
Chu did note that if Vancouver police were to design the ideal policing structure for the Greater Vancouver region, “I don’t think we would design what we have now”.
“But it’s our role as Vancouver police officers to work the best we can within the existing structure,” he added.
LePard previously issued an apology on behalf of the Vancouver police in 2010 for its handling of the Pickton case.
The B.C. RCMP issued a statement in response to Oppal’s report Monday and said they will review and consider the series of recommendations.
“The deaths of the women at the heart of this Inquiry were a tragedy that caused unimaginable pain for many families across our communities,” Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens said in the statement. “We deeply regret the disappearance, and ultimately the loss, of so many loved ones.”
Mayor Gregor Robertson also issued a statement in response to the report Monday, indicating he has asked the city manager to report back to council in January on the implementation of Oppal's recommendations that pertain to the city. Robertson noted his support for a regional police force, and called the approach "crucial to improving public safety and policing in the region".
Oppal’s report followed an inquiry that began on October 11, 2011, and included 92 days of hearings.