B.C. Attorney-General Wally Oppal today released the "fractured, and oft-criticized," Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, entitled 'Forsaken.' The inquiry investigated why the Vancouver police and local RCMP took more than a decade to identify Willy Pickton, who admitted killing 49 women, as a serial killer, despite many warnings that Pickton was preying on sex workers in the poorest neighbourhood in Vancouver and Canada, the Downtown Eastside.
His 65 recommendations included: a regionalized police force; an Aboriginal liaison position in the Vancouver police force; provincal legislative changes to protect female sex trade workers; "cleaning up" the Downtown Eastside to reduce the opportunity for another serial killer to use the Downtown Eastside to recruit victims (I worry that this is an excuse to simply gentrify the neighbourhood); a 24-hour drop-in centre in the neighbourhood; and a shuttle bus along Highway 16 (between Prince George and Prince Rupert) in Northern B.C. because many vulnerable women in this area have disappeared while hitchhiking.
The Inquiry has been controversial for many reasons, including Oppal himself. Many felt he was appointed to whitewash any connection to the BC Liberals and their Vancouver municipal farm team (the Non-Partisan Association, which is a highly partisan right-wing muncipal party representing the wealthy westside interests in the city) and its Mayor, Phillip Owens.
"On February 15, 2011, some newspapers carried ads by former mayor Philip Owen apologizing for his criticism of a former Vancouver police detective inspector. On August 6, 2010, Owen went on CBC Radio with former attorney general Wally Oppal and basically blamed Kim Rossmo for the long delay in apprehending notorious serial killer Robert Pickton.
It was a despicable thing for Owen to do, given that Rossmo was raising an alarm about the possibility that a serial killer was on the loose in the late 1990s—only to have those warnings ignored by senior police officers.
In 1995, Rossmo became the first police officer in Canada to earn a PhD in criminology. He developed a system of geographic profiling, which would help investigators track serial killers. Rossmo ended up suing the police board—then headed by Owen— for wrongful dismissal after he was stripped of his rank. Early in the following year, Pickton was arrested and charged—just as Owen was considering whether or not to run for reelection. Prior to Pickton's arrest, Owen and senior police publicly stated on more than one occasion that there wasn't a serial killer preying on Downtown Eastside women.
Many believed that a primary reason why Owen didn't seek reelection in 2002 was because he didn't want those previous comments becoming an issue in the campaign. At one point, Owen, as chair of the police board, rejected offering a reward, saying he didn't want to fund a prostitution-relocation service. That phrase would have been political dynamite in the hands of opposition pamphleteers by late 2002.
I'm sure that Owen believed in the late 1990s there wasn't a serial killer targeting women in Vancouver. After all, that's what he had been told by Vancouver police, notwithstanding the suspicions of Rossmo and community activists. But for Owen, more than a decade later, to try to blame Rossmo for the department's incompetence was shocking.
Rossmo is now a professor at Texas State University, where he has developed an international reputation for his work in tracking criminals. It's likely that Rossmo threatened to sue if Owen didn't apologize. Nobody pays for ads of this nature unless there's some legal pressure."