RCMP downplay report praising Pickton investigation
Published Thursday, January 12, 2012 3:44PM PST
An RCMP report into the force's Robert Pickton investigation that concluded officers made no major mistakes when they failed to catch the serial killer was never supposed to be thorough, a federal government lawyer says.
At a public inquiry into the case Thursday, a lawyer for the families of Pickton's victims cross-examined the senior RCMP officer who wrote the report.
Lawyer Cameron Ward wanted to know why the RCMP failed to catch Pickton -- or even confirm he was the killer -- until February 2002, despite having information pointing to him as a top suspect as early as 1998.
But Jan Brongers, lawyer for the federal government, interrupted.
"Supt. (Bob) Williams was not asked to develop a position of the RCMP with respect to the quality and adequacy of the investigation," Brongers told the inquiry.
"And he is not here as a spokesperson for the RCMP to give the RCMP's position."
Brongers noted the internal report was never intended to be a thorough, public examination of what happened and what went wrong.
Williams, then an inspector from Alberta, authored the 28-page document in 2002 as the Mounties prepared to defend themselves in a civil lawsuit.
The officer told the inquiry this week that he would have done some things differently if he were involved.
But he cautioned the officers on the ground shouldn't be faulted for failing to stop Pickton from murdering sex workers.
During Brongers' own cross-examination of Williams a day before, he repeatedly pointed out the report was solely for the purposes of providing a legal defence for a private audience of government lawyers.
It wasn't intended to identify lessons learned, nor was Williams asked to craft recommendations, said Brongers.
Williams was asked to conduct the review as an outside officer and spent less than two weeks in Vancouver conducting interviews with RCMP officers in the fall of 2002.
He wrote in his report that officers pursued Pickton diligently and followed-up leads appropriately, and ultimately concluded officers wouldn't do anything differently if they could do it again.
He slightly updated that assessment at the inquiry, saying some things could have been changed and Pickton "perhaps" could have been caught sooner.
The Vancouver Police Department has issued several public apologies and released a report in 2010 that identified a number of problems within the Vancouver force and the RCMP.
But the RCMP has never apologized or publicly admitted any mistakes, saying the inquiry must decide whether its officers or the Vancouver police officers fell short.
On Thursday, Ward offered Williams a chance to say sorry.
"Are you sir in any position today to apologize to my clients for the way the RCMP handled the cases of the disappearances," asked the lawyer who represents the families of 25 missing and murdered women.
Williams said it wasn't his place to make such a statement.
"No, I don't think that would be my position to apologize, that would be more up to the management of E-Division (the RCMP's unit in B.C.)," he replied.
"As far as any apologies, it's unfortunate what has happened has happened, but I would think the management of the division would be more knowledgeable with respect to that, and I would like to defer that to them."
Pickton was eventually arrested in February 2002 after Mounties showed up at his farm in Port Coquitlam, east of Vancouver, with a search warrant related to illegal firearms.
The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his property, though he was only convicted of six counts of second degree murder.
After his arrest, Pickton claimed he killed a total of 49 women.