Police clerk told caller ‘missing hookers’ not investigated, inquiry hears
VANCOUVER – From Tuesday’s Globe and Mail
Published Monday, Nov 28, 2011
A Vancouver Police Department clerk who took missing persons reports in the late
1990s was overheard saying “racist stuff” and telling a caller that police do
not look for “missing hookers,” the Pickton inquiry has heard.
The clerk, Sandy Cameron, also mistreated Dorothy Purcell, the mother of Tanya
Holyk, lawyer Darrell Roberts told the inquiry on Monday. Mr. Roberts was
appointed by the Missing Women Inquiry to represent the views of aboriginal
people. Ms. Holyk, 21, was last seen on Oct. 29, 1996, and police say Mr.
Pickton killed her.
Ms. Purcell has said Ms. Cameron did not take her report when she told police
that her daughter had gone missing, Mr. Roberts said. The clerk suggested she
should have been a better mother, giving a response that Ms. Purcell felt had
racial undertones, Mr. Roberts said.
“First nations folks, to report their missing daughters and overcome whatever
fears they have, should never have to put up with abuse like that,” he said
during cross-examination of Vancouver Deputy Chief Doug LePard.
“I agree,” Deputy Chief LePard said.
The officer also agreed with a suggestion by Mr. Roberts that the police
compromised their investigation of the missing women by undermining the trust of
Complaints of racism levelled against the civilian member of the missing person
unit, and of ignoring reports of missing women from some families, were
previously documented in a report by Deputy Chief LePard released last year. She
was identified as Ms. Cameron at the public inquiry, although Deputy Chief
LePard did not identify the clerk by name in the report on the Vancouver police
investigation into missing women.
Every officer who worked with the civilian member corroborated some or all of
the complaints, the report stated. Several supervisors raised concerns about her
over the years, but were not successful in their efforts to address her
behaviour or have her removed, Deputy Chief LePard wrote in the report.
The relationship between the Vancouver police and many family members had been
“terribly and apparently irrevocably poisoned” as a result of her behaviour, he
wrote. However, he concluded that an inference of systemic bias throughout the
police organization could not be supported based solely on her “inappropriate
and prejudicial” behaviour.
No one spoke on Ms. Cameron’s behalf at the inquiry. But in Deputy Chief
LePard’s report, she responded to the allegations by saying, “What’s rude to
someone might not be rude to someone else. I think their frustration level was
high and I was the prime target.” At another point she said: “If you’re rude to
me, I might get defensive. … There might have been times I was rude.”
Deputy Chief LePard reaffirmed the report’s conclusions during cross-examination
by lawyer Jason Gratl, who was appointed by the commission to represent the
views of Downtown Eastside residents and women who work in prostitution.
Mr. Gratl pressed him on why management within the Vancouver police failed to
have her removed. Deputy Chief LePard said his focus was on the missing women
investigation and he did not look into the issue.
Earlier, Mr. Roberts suggested that police should have considered different
investigative approaches in 1998, four years before the serial killer was
He put together the foundation for a search warrant of the Pickton farm that he
suggested could have been compiled in the fall of 1998. The information came
from the investigation of an attempted murder charge against Robert Pickton in
March, 1997, and from a tip in the summer of 1998 in which the police were told
that women’s identifications, purses, bloody clothing, syringes and jewellery
were seen in Robert Pickton’s trailer.
Mr. Roberts suggested that Vancouver police could have initiated an
investigation into kidnapping and obtained a search warrant that would have
broken open the case.
Vancouver police had jurisdiction to investigate kidnappings that began in
Vancouver, Deputy Chief LePard told the inquiry. But in practical terms, the
Coquitlam RCMP took control of the Pickton investigation in the summer of 1998,
after Vancouver police told them about the tip they had received, he said.
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