I’ve been sitting on this story for some time now……
The contents potentially explosive, the journalists quandary, to report the story or let it slide. Does the need to write the story outweigh the potential negative consequences that publication could have. For me, the answer was easy, follow your moral code. As hard as it was to sit on it, I realized reporting the story at the wrong time might negatively impact the ability of the Police to solve further crimes. Crimes committed by an alleged serial killer.
So I sat on the story. It was all about timing, but now, after many months, the timing is right.
I wasn’t surprised when I read the paper this morning and learned crime reporter Mike McIntyre was the one who broke the story. The scandal centres on the blockbuster news that alleged serial killer Shawn Lamb has been trying to “play ball” with the WPS for some time now indicating he has information that could potentially solve up to five more murder cases.
“Homicide doesn’t seem interested in finding some more bodies,” Lamb said.
Most people in law enforcement would agree that Homicide investigation is the ultimate challenge in police work. The pursuit, commitment and dedication to solve the ultimate crime. It’s high stakes work that comes with high expectations and high stress.
As a former Homicide investigator and supervisor, I know what it’s like to be put in tough positions when it comes to game breaking decisions on murder cases. I’ve had to make tough calls on which direction to take a case and what strategy to employ to achieve the ultimate goal of case resolution. Every move you make, everything you say, every tactic you use is subject to the scrutiny of Crown Attorneys, Defense Lawyers and Judges, not to mention people in your Organization, the public and press.
The foundation for every decision is built on experience, the lessons learned from every prior case, good or bad, year after year, all indelibly burned into your mind. Experience is a priceless commodity, one that is critical to the decision-making process.
I’ve participated in dozens of high stakes interrogations. Some of these interrogations involved suspects who had gone to extraordinary lengths to secret the victims remains in their attempts to elude justice. The resolution of the case rested squarely on the ability to extract a confession. No body could mean no charge. No charge could mean a killer might walk free.
The interrogation was always the ultimate challenge. A game of cat and mouse, the interrogator imposing his will on the killer, trying to find the right button to push to get the suspect to crack. Skilled interrogators are another priceless commodity for a Police Service. Confessions hedge the bets, no need to rely on the frailty of witnesses, what better evidence of guilt then words of admission from the mouth of the killer.
Consider the probability of encountering someone you’d never met before, talking to them for a few hours, then asking them tell you their deepest darkest secret. Then consider the same scenario, only this time, add the fact that if they tell you their deepest darkest secret, they could potentially spend the rest of their life in jail. Seems like a fairly improbable scenario doesn’t it?
Not so, skilled Homicide interrogators extract these types of confessions every day.
Such was the case with alleged serial killer Shawn Lamb.
Skilled WPS investigators extracted a confession from him that resulted in charges being laid in the tragic slayings of three (3) Manitoba women. When the news broke, many people wondered how many more?
The interrogator / suspect relationship can be an odd one. To break a suspect down you first have to gain their trust. This can be done in many ways but often includes the interrogator sharing deeply personal information. The interrogator tries to connect with the suspect on a deep level to break down barriers that might impede the desired confession. Once the confession comes, suspects can bond with investigators and see them as “trusted friends.”
Suspects have been known to continue contact with their interrogators long after they’ve been lodged in remand or jail.
It wasn’t so long ago that the WPS issued a press release regarding their efforts to search for the remains of murder victim Tanya Nepinak. “Due to inconsistent and new information, multiple areas within the Brady Landfill site have been identified as additional search areas. This information has created a massive search area, making it impossible to conduct an effective search.”
My experience told me the “new & inconsistent” information could only have come from the mouth of the alleged killer.
Disconcerting was the fact that Lambs original information was being referred to as “inconsistent” and had clearly been downgraded. So much so the Police made the controversial decision to rely on the intuition of Aboriginal Elders to pinpoint the Brady Landfill search site.
Since I published my story, “The Search for Tanya Nepinak – Into the Abyss,” rumours regarding continuing efforts to “debrief” Lamb abounded. Rumour had it Lamb reached out to his interrogators not long after he was originally charged & jailed, apparently indicating he wanted to “unpack his suitcase” and get the murders of a number of additional women off of his chest.
Rumours that have now been validated!
What happened after Lamb made that call was nothing short of a travesty.
Inexperience, lack of direction, lack of courage or combinations of all the above created significant delays for investigators who so desperately wanted to cut the red tape and get down to the business of a second interrogation. Protocols, process and potential consequences all the subject of drawn out lengthy debates by Supervisors and people in the chain of command that would eventually ensure that a hot to trot serial killer who was ready to spill his guts, had second thoughts.
Days later, Lamb cooled off leaving investigators frustrated and scratching their heads, sickened by the lost opportunity to solve additional murder cases.
It seems at some point, investigators were able to cut through that red tape and eventually obtained the authorization to connect with Lamb. The question remains, what impact did unnecessary delays have on the quality of Lambs information. Information later deemed “inconsistent” after delays forced Lamb to sit down with his defence attorneys rather than a team of skilled Police interrogators.
“Experienced” Homicide Unit Supervisors would leap at the opportunity to solve serial homicide offences. It’s “experience” gained from years of dealing with hardened criminals that tells us that we must act post-haste when these opportunities present themselves. Offenders can be fickle, unpredictable people, when they’re ready to “pop” Police have to be prepared to make “quick” courageous decisions.
I was not surprised by these events.
The WPS is not known for its commitment to retain experience within the ranks of the Police Service when it comes to units charged with the responsibility of conducting criminal investigations.
Recent experiments in the Homicide Unit provide credence to that assertion.
In 2011, Crime Division Commander Rick Guyader offered rare insight into the Police Executives mindset when he was cross examined at a Labor Board Arbitration Hearing held in response to the unethical transfer of an experienced Homicide Unit Supervisor. When questioned regarding the performance of the inexperienced replacement Guyader replied;
“She’s doing the job to the best of her abilities, it won’t be long before she’s up to snuff.”
“It won’t be long before she’s up to snuff!”
I’m sorry, that just does’t cut it, not when you are investigating the ultimate crime and especially not when you are dealing with an alleged serial killer.
It was an unprecedented move, placing a newly promoted Sergeant, with no previous experience working Homicide cases, into a leadership role in the high stakes Unit. The unwitting promotee thrown into dark, shark infested waters, set up for failure by morally bankrupt puppet-masters.
Thus the results of the “failed experiment” backed by people holding the highest rank and authority in the Police Service.
During his testimony, Guyader indicated the change in Homicide Unit leadership was “out of the box” thinking and he was prepared to accept responsibility for the results of his controversial decision.
It seems to me, incompetence of this magnitude should come with some sort of consequence (s).
Sins of the past aside, the time has come for the Police Service to realize that a thorough debrief of alleged serial killer Shawn Lamb is in order. It’s time to cut the red tape and end the debate regarding process and protocol.
Sometimes, you just have to dance with the Devil.