Searching for the Truth – Chapter 2

‘Searching for the truth’ is a case study based on an actual police investigation. The investigation is used as an example to describe one method of Major Case Management used by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the mid 1990’s. As a reminder, chapters are recorded in descending sequence. Please scroll to locate the chapter desired. Chapter 2

Coffee in hand, Dan and I discussed the next steps as we drove slowly to the office. Once there, we needed to be coordinated in our message to the team and in setting up the investigative concepts required by the computerized management process. I also had a box of donuts on the back seat of the Ford for our team meeting. Law enforcement investigators can, at times, be resistant to change. I was hoping that carbs and sugar might smooth some of the inherent resistance when I attempted to shift their paradigm.  Sipping his coffee, Dan opened our conversation with a comment and a question.

“OK, worst case scenario, I’ve got a double homicide on my hands. I can put four full-time resources to this investigation Bill. My detachment area is quiet right now and I want this wrapped up within the window. My people are good investigators. What is going to change in the way they investigate this file?”

Dan was prudent to start his investigation by taking into account the most serious scenario. A less experienced manager might just assume that the incident was a double suicide. In the annals of law enforcement history, many investigators have made this mistake and later paid a high price for the error. The window that Dan referred to was the next 72 hours, a period during which 80% of the information would be collected and a search for the truth could be best achieved. After that time period, after the emotional shock had a chance to dissipate, witnesses would forget or embellish information and any persons suspected of criminal activity would disappear or fashion alibis and alliances with others.  While I knew from personal knowledge that Dan was at that level of investigative understanding, my confidence at hearing him voice it was increased.  We were starting on the same page. Relaxing back into the driver’s seat, I responded.

“Dan, the whole premise for this new process is to improve efficiency and reduce duplication. The process reduces the propensity toward tunnel vision; investigators following personal assumptions rather than tackling more complex threads of information.  Remember, at the advent of law enforcement many years ago, a horse thief was caught, tried, convicted and hung in one day. Now, the onus is on the Crown Prosecutor to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the thief had the means, motive and opportunity to steal that horse.  To ensure the accuracy of the evidence we need to follow all threads of information, even if the end result of that inquiry favours the accused and raises that reasonable doubt in the minds of the judge or jury.”

Dan shifted in his seat, expressing uneasy frustration and declared,

“So, we’re investigating for the defence now as well!!”

“A new age my friend. The most recent Supreme Court decision, R vs STINCHCOMBE directs that the police investigate information both exculpatory and inculpatory to the accused, and to disclose that information to the accused.  And since that decision was handed down, persons convicted decades ago are demanding new trials where they are identifying supposed evidence on their behalf that was never investigated by investigators. Trying to find the truth now will be impossible. Executed properly, our case management process will ensure that our investigations will stand the test of time.  And you won’t be called back to trial 15 years from now to explain your actions from an historically dated policing and cultural time period.”

“So we need more investigators?” Dan inquired.

“No, we just need to manage the ones we have more effectively.”

We pulled into the detachment parking lot just as our coffee was depleted. I expected that there would be refills available from the lunchroom community coffee pot inside, the quality and temperature of which was generally an unpredictable surprise. Entering through the back door of the building and down a long narrow hallway, we entered the coffee room to find our team eagerly waiting. I poured a cup of coffee and introductions were made all around.

I started with a visual cue by opening the box of donuts with exaggerated flair, displaying the contents of various donut types to the gathered group.

“Any veggies?” an as yet anonymous participant asked, deflating my attempt at a smooth social entrance into the clutch as my brain quickly processed my advancing age and unhealthy habits in relation to those of the new generation police officer.

Constable Anna Petersen was the first to speak and the voice of the vegetarian inquiry. Anna was the senior investigator in the group and had 6 years of service with the Force. Personable and friendly, her reputation as a thorough and professional investigator was well regarded in the division.

Constable Bob Bruce was next up. Bob was the junior member of the detachment with 2 years of service, but as he introduced himself I could tell that he possessed a mature confidence expected of but not often seen in members with twice his service. Dan had mentioned that Bob was actually local to the area and a late arrival into a law enforcement career. Previously, he worked as a loans officer attached to a national bank.

Third up was Constable Terry McKay. While Terry appeared to be the youngest in the group, she advised us in her introduction that she had 5 years of police service, and had only been posted at St Laurent for 6 months. More gregarious than the others, she gave a quick overview of her service and experience. I got the impression that Terry’s confidence in herself would never be surpassed by others. 

The fourth member of the group was Ted. That’s how he introduced himself,

“Hi, I’m Ted. I’ve got six years service in the Force and transferred here about a year ago. My wife and I have two daughters and we enjoy the area very much. I’m senior to Anna.”

Anna was well baited with Ted’s last remark and instinctively responded,

“We were in training together!!”

“Yeah, but my regimental number is lower than yours.”

“Not to mention your IQ.”

“Ok, ok, enough,” Dan intervened in the good natured bantering which served to break the ice within our group and establish Ted as the office comedian and likely calming voice when things got critically tense. 

Following my introduction I explained my role within the team and repeated the description given to Dan of the major case management process to the group.

“So, you’re not here to take over our investigation like the FBI or something?” Anna asked.

“No, not at all. The investigative process doesn’t change, only the collection, storage and reporting processes. They need to be clearly defined and strictly followed.”

“So more work,” Bob expressed.

“Yes, at the front end, but much less at the back end. Let me explain. We are all familiar with the Paul Bernardo case. Bernardo was a serial rapist that operated in various suburbs of Toronto in the late ‘80s, early 90’s. He was eventually apprehended but the fact that he operated undetected for so long was cause for a public inquiry chaired by Ontario’s Superior Court Justice Archie Campbell.”

Author’s note: Investigative details and Inquiry finding can be reviewed at:

https://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/inquiries/cornwall/en/hearings/exhibits/Wendy_Leaver/pdf/10_Campbell_Summary.pdf

“Justice Campbell was critical of the lack of coordination and communication among investigators stating that they ‘might as well have been operating in different countries’ and that a ‘lack of effective case management and the lack of systems to ensure communication and cooperation was absent.’ ”  Pausing for effect, I could tell that I had their attention. I continued.

“So, our case management system addresses the systemic weaknesses identified by Justice Campbell and adds technology as a tool to better store and analyze data. To ensure that all aspects of this investigation are addressed, that all threads are tied off, we start by creating a management team, starting with a file manager. And that would be your boss; he is responsible and accountable to ensure that this investigation moves efficiently and is effectively resolved. For the next 72 hours, he will chair morning and evening briefings. The morning meetings will set our direction for the day, the evening meetings will communicate our success and identify future needs.”

“Well, we do that anyway,” spoke Terry.  For anything serious we always set up a special project room and have regular meetings with Dan.”

“Great, no change then. The second position on the management team will be the file coordinator. The file coordinator will review all incoming information, classify it, analyze it and prepare it for entry into the computer system.”

“I think that’s my job?” Anna offered. “I’ve been point on most serious investigations lately eh Dan?”

I interjected quickly before Dan could respond.

“Actually Anna, the file manager needs to be a bit anal, someone who is good at and enjoys data processing. This person needs to be able to read, digest and synthesize large quantities of information and present findings, even assign tasks to fill investigative gaps for other team members to perform. An information guru who isn’t tempted to be drawn into the adrenaline rush common in active high profile investigations.”

All eyes swung to Bob. “But I’m the junior man here. Who’s going to listen to me?”

“Actually, everyone will Bob. Congratulations. You’re the man,” spoke Dan with a smile.

“And me?” asked Anna.

“You are the primary investigator. You direct inquiries in the field and are tasked with the more sensitive or critical components of the investigation. For example, you need to direct inquiries or take statements from the next of kin for both victims. Then be actively involved in the leads that those provide. The investigation revolves around you. But the three of you need to work hand-in-hand.”

“And I get to write the 99 page report,” she added wryly.”

“Ah, actually no, the computer will do that.”

“Yeah right!!” she exclaimed and looked around at the group for their support at this obvious fabrication.”

“No, really! If we enter the data according to the protocols outlined, very little reporting will be required at the completion of this investigation. A detailed factum report will be generated by the system that will fully explain the findings of your investigation. And the data can be accessed in several ways to create exhibit reports, court evidence testimony reports, reports linking suspects and others.” Each piece of data will be indexed to a document so that hard copy can be easily retrieved from a filing system to back up the computerized report.

“So what’s the bottom line here Bill?” Dan questioned. “There’s got to be a catch.”

“Well, the catch is that this investigation needs to be professionally managed and all information collected needs to be processed accurately with the data entered into the system. If you do that I can guarantee you a product at the end that involves no duplication or searching for information in hard copy format or report writing. The only report required will be an overall analysis and recommendation completed by the primary investigator and signed by you.”

“And the data entry?”

“Ok, there’s the catch, I guess” I conceded. “We need a dedicated full time data entry clerk for the first 72 hours and as required thereafter. But the work up front will eliminate everything at the back end and you won’t be rushing around trying to tie up loose ends that you discover that you missed.”

“Makes sense, we have a part time steno that works during the busy summer months. I think she would be happy for some extra hours.”

“There must be more?!” inquired Ted.

“The rest will come later. You guys need to get busy and I’ll start with Bob and the steno in setting up the management process and computer software. I brought an extra computer with me that can be dedicated to the project.”

“Printer too?” Terry posed.

“Yep, new in the box. I expect you want to get going, can we start with our first morning meeting and get some tasks assigned.”

“Anna, you have the floor. What’s our first priority?”

“Let’s start with interviews from the next of kin. Ted and I will interview the female’s family. Terry, if you could do the male’s. Take a back-up with you until we know what we’re dealing with. Bob, start tracking information from the Medical Examiner and touch base with forensics. I expect that once we talk to the families we will need to branch out to others. Let’s keep in touch and coordinate those interviews during the day. We’ll debrief at 6 here at the office. Let’s communicate messages through Linda. Bill, Linda will be the data entry clerk for the file. Is that ok?”

“Yep, great! She also needs to be here for both meetings each day.”

“Why? She’s just entering data!” exclaimed Ted.

“And reading it as well,” I added. “She will likely know more about this file content than anyone. Besides, another sometimes impartial look and opinion is valuable and raises different options.”

Dan adjourned the meeting with an encouraging tone, “Ok, hit the road. Good luck. See you at 6.”

……… to be continued

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