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Rossmo sought unit to probe women’s deaths

Courtesy of the Vancouver Sun, Tues 26 June 2001-06-26
Neal Hall Vancouver Sun

Ward Perrin, Vancouver Sun / Photographs of some of the missing women were displayed Monday during a memorial service at Crab Park on the waterfront

A former geographic profiler with the Vancouver police department suggested Monday that a task force should have been formed to investigate whether a serial killer was preying on women in the Downtown Eastside.

"If we believe, with any degree of probability, that we have a predator responsible for 20 to 30 deaths in a short period of time, do you think our response was adequate?" Kim Rossmo asked during a civil trial at the Vancouver Law Courts.

Rossmo, 46, is suing the Vancouver police board and Deputy Chief John Unger for wrongful dismissal.

The trial has heard allegations that an "old boys network" controlled the upper ranks of the police force and refused to accept Rossmo's controversial promotion in 1995.

At the time, Rossmo had become Canada's first police officer to graduate with a PhD. He studied criminology at Simon Fraser University, where he developed geographic profiling, a computerized crime tool aimed at detecting serial rape, arson and murder.

Rossmo had received an offer from the RCMP to become an inspector and set up a geographic profiling unit. Told of the offer, then-police chief Ray Canuel promoted Rossmo to detective-inspector from constable and allowed him to set up a geographic profiling unit, which won the department international acclaim and awards.

In his second day on the witness stand, Rossmo estimated that 10 senior officers resented his promotion and acted negatively toward him during his five years as an inspector.

One of those, he said, was Inspector Fred Biddlecombe, who was in charge of the major crime section.

Rossmo said Biddlecombe threw a minor temper tantrum when Rossmo suggested in 1998 that police should assess the extent of the problem of women disappearing from the streets of the Downtown Eastside -- 40 have vanished since 1971, including 16 between 1995 and 1998.

Rossmo suggested the public should be told about the possibility of a serial killer, but Biddlecombe instead denied publicly that a serial killer existed.

"I thought it was the wrong approach," Rossmo testified. "We did not put together a task force anywhere near what a real serial murder investigation would involve."

He also told the court he was rarely asked to consult on cases by the major crime section and sexual offences squad, "which should have been my main customers."

Instead, he was asked to assist in investigations internationally and across Canada, including the Paul Bernardo case in Ontario.

Much of Rossmo's cross-examination by defence lawyer Al Hamilton, representing the police board, concerned Rossmo's five-year contract, which expired last Dec. 31. The agreement stated he would be considered terminated if his contract wasn't renewed.

Hamilton reminded Rossmo that he was offered a two-year contract, which Rossmo found unacceptable.

"It was highly undesirable," Rossmo said, noting a two-year contract would have left him 28 months short of being able to retire with a pension.

He agreed he could have returned to working as a constable but felt that offer was an insult, considering he had not been a member of the Vancouver Police Union for five years. Before his promotion, Rossmo had been on the union executive.

Although the trial has heard how Unger told Rossmo that his contract wasn't being renewed because of budget cutbacks, Rossmo has alleged the decision was political because he wasn't accepted by the old boys' club, which included senior officers who were promoted after the early departure in 1999 of police chief Bruce Chambers.

Rossmo recalled how he was told that he wasn't being accepted as a regular member of the "officers' mess" -- a seventh-floor room within the police station at 2120 Cambie designated for use by only the elite senior officers. Instead, they issued him a membership usually given to civilians, he said.

He suggested the small number of senior officers who continued to react negatively to his promotion were immature and unprofessional. The more progressive officers within the force were supportive and encouraged by his promotion, he said.

Missing Women Memorial-June 25, 2001

Former B.C. cop trying t trace killer's steps-Oct 12, 2002

 

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Updated: August 21, 2016