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VICTORIA - The RCMP is facing criticism in the wake of a scathing Vancouver Police Department report detailing investigative missteps on the hunt for serial killer Robert Pickton.
A British Columbia criminologist and former London police officer said Mounties are trained to believe they are Canada's top cops, while considering other provincial and municipal officers as below standard.
"There's long been tensions between the RCMP and municipal police services," said Rob Gordon of Simon Fraser University. "The RCMP know all, cannot be told anything, and they're the ones alone who stand between chaos and civilized society."
He pointed to deep-rooted RCMP arrogance on the Pickton investigation, where Mounties and Vancouver police officers withheld information from each other about women who'd been reported missing from the Downtown Eastside since the mid- to late 1990s.
Pickton's crimes came to light only when a rookie Mountie showed up looking for weapons on the former pig farmer's sprawling suburban Port Coquitlam property in 2002.
"There's ample evidence to indicate that the RCMP does not play well with others and most certainly was not playing well with others in relation to the Pickton matter," said Gordon.
The Vancouver police report, authored by Deputy Chief Const. Doug LePard, said both its own department and the RCMP are to blame for errors made during the investigation.
Thirteen women disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside after the city's police force first forwarded information about Pickton to the RCMP, according the police review.
The 400-page document said mistakes prevented police from arresting Pickton until 2002 — years after officers first started looking at Pickton as they investigated reports of missing sex workers — but that he could have been caught earlier.
RCMP haven't commented on LePard's report, saying they need to read it first, but have already stated they disagree with some of its conclusions.
Gordon noted other examples of RCMP problems were highlighted in the recent Air India inquiry report, which criticized the Mounties for fighting turf wars with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service during the investigation into twin Air India bombings in 1985, killing a total of 331 people.
Gordon said Mounties have also caused problems with the various Vancouver-area combined police teams fighting gang violence.
He said a Vancouver police biker gang expert was drummed out of his post in a combined RCMP municipal team by the Mounties.
"He was a sergeant with the VPD, been a project leader, and ran into all kinds of difficulty," he said. "The guy was an expert, but was treated very poorly by his RCMP colleagues."
Former Vancouver police officer Doug MacKay-Dunn, who served in the Downtown Eastside and retired in 2001 after 31 years of service, said he encountered difficulties working with Mounties.
"At that point, the RCMP didn't necessarily get along that well with other organizations," he said. "They didn't like being told what to do. They were Canada's national force and they considered themselves the cream of the cream. They figured they were the best of the best."
MacKay-Dunn, now a councillor in the District of North Vancouver, said he was one of the first officers to believe a serial killer could be responsible for the disappearances of dozens of women from the Downtown Eastside.
He said he consistently encountered resistance from RCMP brass throughout his career, but rank-and-file officers from all forces seemed to get along.
But MacKay-Dunn and Gordon both agree that the RCMP should not have its current 20-year service contract in British Columbia renewed.
The current RCMP contract in British Columbia expires in 2012.
"Absolutely, don't do it," MacKay-Dunn said.
Gordon called the RCMP a broken organization, and trying to change the Mounties would be like "bending granite."
He warned the current Liberal government against signing any new contract with the Mounties.
"If they are going for another 20 years and the province signs off on it, the current government deserves to fall," Gordon said.
The RCMP launched a massive search on Pickton's farm in 2002, uncovering the remains or DNA of 33 women. He was charged with 27 counts of murder and eventually convicted in the murders of six women.