04/23/2012 05:12 EDT | Updated 06/23/2012 05:12 EDT

Police Ignored Missing Persons Investigations, Inquiry Hears


Two former civilian employees with the Vancouver police department have testified detectives refused to investigate missing persons complaints involving street workers or homeless people.

Former VPD missing person's clerk Sandra Cameron told the inquiry underway in Vancouver on Monday that the policy at the time serial killer Robert Pickton was active was "no body, no homicide."

Cameron said missing persons investigations was a job no one wanted and files would pile up on her desk because the department would often be without a detective for months.

"Missing persons was not an important function to most of the people assigned to homicide and robbery," Cameron said. "If it had been a priority they would have put a replacement in when the detective was away on holidays. They would have put a body in there for someone to help. But they had a very difficult time trying to get detectives to come into missing persons to work there."

Cameron said she was originally hired to answer phones for the missing persons unit but soon found herself creating files and doing interviews — jobs for which she had no training.

Misplaced files

During her testimony, she broke down as she recalled have to go hunting for a missing dental chart that she was expecting to receive, and finding it in the wrong file in the offices of the missing women review team.

She said the incident illustrated how poorly the missing persons investigations were handled.

"They should have known what to do with them. It was important to get that information on the computer," she said.

Cameron also testified officers told her sex workers who alleged they were raped were only saying so because they were not paid.

But she denied allegations made by First Nations families that she made derogatory comments when they tried to report missing relatives.

Also on Monday, former Vancouver police 911 operator Rae Lynn Dicks testified VPD officers told her native women were always drunk and said officers made jokes about them while pretending to be drunken aboriginal women.

Cameron said she was reprimanded when she tried to take missing persons complaints involving homeless or street workers.

"I was being told to 'stop being a bleeding heart, follow policy, grow up, these people are scum of the earth,'" she said.

The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry is investigating the police mishandling of the investigation of serial killer Robert Pickton, who was eventually convicted for the second degree murder of six women on his Coquitlam pig farm.

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