Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive April  1, 2012)

Bean counters

By Bob Cooper


I recall being at a press conference after we’d cleared a particularly high-profile murder and a reporter asked me how much the investigation had cost.  Wanting to make a point I replied that the Mayor (who was Larry Campbell at the time so I knew I could get away with it) wouldn’t want to hear me say this but I don’t count it I just spend it.  What I was saying in my typical career-stunting style was that there are some cases that you just can’t put a price on and I could never pass up an opportunity to poke the bean counters in the eye.

It was revealed yesterday that a man who raped his own daughter had all his charges stayed (Child-sex charges stayed) because the clock ran out while the RCMP and the Crown were fighting over a $40,000 bill to translate statements taken from the family from an unknown foreign language into English.  In addition to beating her and having her brother join in, he raped her anally in order to preserve her virginity.  And they say chivalry is dead.  Despite the shock and surprise professed by the Attorney-General, it’s an old story for a couple of reasons.

The first was the constant battle between the Crown and police over Crown downloading the costs and labour involved in preparing disclosure packages.  The Crown held the whip hand and we could complain all we wanted but nothing ever changed. 

The second was certain bosses for whom right & wrong went out the window if it stood in the way of their next promotion and nothing made a guy more promotable than being seen to hold the line on spending.  I’m not saying that’s what happened here but I’ve seen it first-hand many times.

Certainly we’re obliged to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money but when you were dealing with a family  going through the worst tragedy that would ever befall them the last thing you needed was a boss who couldn’t see past the balance sheet giving you grief about overtime.   The type of work we did wasn’t predictable and one multiple gang slaying or a ransom kidnapping would blow the projected annual Divisional budget in no time at all.  In the end, it costs what it costs.

To show you how petty this could get, we had a cabinet full of stationary supplies including boxes of Bic pens.   One day the administrative Inspector asked why the Homicide Squad was going through so many pens and we told him that quite often we’d have 10 or 15 Downtown Eastside residents in the office writing their statements on a murder that had just occurred at Hastings & Gore (the calls you could walk to as we used to say) and most of them didn’t bring their own pens.  He then asked why we didn’t collect the pens before we released them and we had to explain that in many cases they would idly put the pen in their mouth or chew on it while they contemplated their next sentence so we just told them that the pens were complementary, sort of a reward for coming in and helping us out.  I’m sure he probably enquired about the cost of a device to sterilize the pens.

Most of the bosses I had were good people who really wanted to do the right thing.  I used to walk in with some pretty big ticket items and I never got turned down which was fortunate because in some cases I’d already spent the money.  For the others I used a combination of persuasive argument on the one hand and the hint of ‘you wouldn’t dare refuse because I’ll write it in the log’ on the other.    

One classic gaffe occurred during a period of austerity in the 90s in which all travel requests for detectives required the written approval of the Superintendent.  During a murder trial in Supreme Court a defense lawyer examining the detective’s file found a request to send him and his partner to Prince George to conduct some interviews which had come back from upstairs with a notation in the margin that said ‘Wait for a seat sale’.  Try explaining that to a family.  It’s a shame we have to learn that lesson over and over again. 

So now a victim is lost in the shuffle and a despicable predator walks free when he should be in prison (and in general population) because no one would take responsibility, go out on a limb, and spend some money.  The mother’s first reaction was to ask who was bribed and who could blame her?  It makes much more sense than the real reason.



Bob Cooper is a retired Vancouver policeman.  He walked a beat in Chinatown and later worked in the Asian Organized Crime Section and the Homicide Squad.



Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2012