2012-01-11 13:20 PST
This letter was sent to the Times Colonist in response to one of their articles.
The recent article "Getting away with Murder" is very misleading. I am not sure if this was intentional or if it was simply a case of poorly researched journalism.
For instance, the term "clearance rate" is used by IHIT and many other law enforcement agencies in Canada and the U.S. However, the definition of "clearance" varies greatly. Greenwood, Chaiken, and Petersilia (1977) state that it is an "inappropriate measure for comparing investigative effectiveness". Many departments have disclaimers beneath their stats citing exactly that. Anyone looking into this would have quickly learned that comparing "clearance rates" in Texas with "clearance rates" in the Lower Mainland is like comparing apples and oranges.
A "cleared" murder investigation for one agency can simply mean that the investigators have identified a suspect while others consider a case "cleared" when an arrest is made, regardless of whether there is evidence for a charge. IHIT uses the highest threshold for "clearing" a case and does not consider a case "cleared" until charge approval has been obtained; which means Crown Counsel believes there is a substantial likelihood of conviction in Criminal Court, where the case must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. If IHIT were to define "cleared" as any case with an identified viable suspect, the "clearance" rate would be much higher. Drawing conclusions based upon a comparison of "clearance rates" unfairly undermines public confidence in IHIT and the police in the Lower Mainland in general.
Additionally misleading is the comparison of the 94 percent clearance rate for assaults on police officers. The writer describes this as "remarkable" and suggests it’s a high number because
the victim is one of (our) own. Fortunately, I think most people understand that a person committing an assault on a police officer is doing it in the presence of a police officer and therefore these cases are quite easily solved. To compare that with "clearing" a homicide is ignorant. To imply that police give preference to solving assaults on themselves over finding the killer of someone's loved one is offensive.
IHIT has an incredible history of success on some of the most challenging investigations in Canada including cases that were unsolved and not "cleared" for years prior to IHIT's involvement. IHIT investigators are highly skilled and dedicated people who work tirelessly, day in and day out, for victims and their families. Fortunately, I believe most, including those who have suffered the unthinkable loss of a family member due to a homicide know that, despite this reporter's efforts.
Supt Ray Bernoties
OIC "E" Division Communications