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VPD placed low priority on hookers being reported missing, inquiry told

BY NEAL HALL, VANCOUVER SUN  APR 23, 2012

VANCOUVER - Vancouver police placed a low priority on missing persons reports and especially missing "hookers," two former civilian workers told the Missing Women inquiry today.

Rae-Lynn Dicks, a former 911 call operator, recalls one Vancouver police officer, Sgt. Ron Joyce, saying years ago:

"Who cares? It's just another hooker. We're not going to spend valuable time investigating."

Dicks said she was told to "grow up" and not be a "bleeding heart liberal" when sex workers were being reported missing.

She said that attitude was common among some officers, who felt sex workers were the "scum of the earth."

Dicks added: "There were all sorts of reasons given why I shouldn't take missing reports."

She recalled she was instructed not to take a missing report from someone who didn't have a fixed address in Vancouver.

That would mean rebuffing a person who wanted to report a homeless person missing, or a person with no fixed address.

Dicks, who worked as a 911 operator from 1995 until 2004, said some officers also had the view that aboriginal women were always drunk and would jokingly mimic drunk native women.

She recalled taking one call from a young woman who had been attacked and was calling from a pay phone.

"She gave me a partial plate number and she was sounding weaker and weaker and passed out - I heard her fall," Dick testified.

She added one of the responding officers said: "It's just a hooker. Hookers can't be raped."

Dicks added that police did catch the attacker, who raped the victim with a tennis racquet.

She recalled meeting the girl - who was a 14-year-old at the time and had lost her daughter because of her heroin addiction.

"The system worked. They got the guy," Dicks recalled. "It gave me a bit of closure."

She added: "Rape is rape."

Dicks recalled she received two weeks of training before becoming a 911 operator.

Sandy Cameron, the civilian who worked in the Vancouver police Missing Person unit for 22 years, from 1979 until 2001, said she never received any training.

The inquiry has heard the testimony of many people who complained that Cameron was often dismissive of relatives trying to report their loves ones missing.

One mother, Dorothy Purcell, recalled trying to report her daughter, Tanya Holyk, missing but Cameron suggested she was just a cokehead who wanted a holiday from looking after her baby.

Purcell said Cameron later closed the file, which upset her.

Cameron testified today that she did close the file after the mother called to report a hang-up phone call.

The mother had done a *69 to get the number, which Cameron called and found out the woman thought she had seen Tanya at a party that lasted into the early hours, so Cameron closed the file because Tanya was just out partying.

Holyk, however, was still missing.

Cameron denied calling Holyk a cokehead and being dismissive of the mother.

"Maybe I wasn't polite to them but I wouldn't make derogatory statements," she said.

"I cared about these files," Cameron added.

She said the unit usually got a new detective assigned to "light duties" because of health issues, but the unit needed someone who wanted to be there and had the passion to investigate the files.

She said many of the cases were homicides, but without any bodies.

Cameron recalled the missing person unit was part of the homicide section, which had a maxim: "No body, no homicide."

She said she now feels police are making her the scapegoat for the VPD's failure to properly investigate the missing women cases.

"I don't believe the Vancouver police department took missing persons seriously enough," Cameron said.

"They just blew missing persons off."

Lori-Ann Ellis, the sister-in-law of Cara Ellis, one of the victims of serial killer Robert Pickton, was upset and in tears over Cameron's testimony.

"She doesn't realize the impact she had on our family and on a lot of families," Ellis said outside court during a break.

Ellis testified earlier how she reported Cara missing but the VPD lost the missing person report.

The inquiry will hold a series of six public policy forums beginning May 1, which will be open to the public and will be live streamed online on the inquiry's website (www.missingwomeninquiry.ca).

The forums are an opportunity for the public to provide ideas and suggestions for practical reform and implementation strategies related to the continuing problem of murdered and missing women.

Additional information regarding the forums, including an overview of what the forums entail and how to participate can be found on the inquiry's website.

Here is a list of the policy forums:

Forum 1: Ensuring the Safety of Vulnerable Women, Session A: Preventing Violence Against Sex Trade Workers

Date: Tuesday, May 1. 9 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. Location: Vancouver Public Library, Peter Kaye Room 350 West Georgia Street.

Session B: Preventing Violence Against Aboriginal and Rural Women

Date: 1:30 p.m. - 4 p.m.

Location: Vancouver Public Library, Peter Kaye Room 350 West Georgia Street.


Session C: Building Strong Police-Community Relationships

Date: Thursday, May 3, 9 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

Location: Vancouver Public Library, Peter Kaye Room 350 West Georgia Street,
Vancouver.

Policy Forum 2: Vulnerable and Intimidated Witnesses in the Criminal Justice Process

Date: Thursday, May 3, 1:30 p.m. - 4 p.m.

Location: Vancouver Public Library, Peter Kaye Room, 350 West Georgia Street.


Policy Forum 3: Improving Missing Person Practices, Session A: Accepting and Investigating Missing Person Reports

Date: Monday, May 7, 9 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

Location: Wosk Centre for Dialogue, Room 420- 580 West Hastings Street, Vancouver.

Session B: Police Relationships with Victims' Families, the Community, the Public and the Media.

Date: Monday, May 7, 1:30 p.m. - 4 p.m.

Location: Wosk Centre for Dialogue, Room 420, 580 W. Hastings St., Vancouver.

Policy Forum 4: Inter-jurisdictional Collaboration and Coordination Among Police

Date: Tuesday, May 8, 9 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

Location: Wosk Centre for Dialogue, Room 420, 580 W. Hastings St., Vancouver

Policy Forum 5: Enhancing Police Accountability

Date: Tuesday, May 8, 1:30 p.m. - 4 p.m.

Location: Wosk Centre for Dialogue, Room 420, 580 W. Hastings St., Vancouver.

Policy Forum 6: From Report to Substantive Change - Healing, Reconciliation and Implementation

Date: Thurs., May 10, 9 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. - 4 p.m.

Location: Wosk Centre For Dialogue, Room 320, 580 W. Hastings St., Vancouver.

nhall@vancouversun.com

 

 

Email: wleng#missingpeople.net 

Missing Women Tip Line: 1-877-687-3377

Updated: August 21, 2016