In at least 48 cases, a killer has not been brought to justice, giving Halifax one of the highest unsolved murder rates in the country. A former murder investigator says incompetence and indifference among police department brass are to blame.
It is rare that I write a Letter to the Editor, however, based on the content of the November 19 unsolved homicide article, I feel the need to clarify several points.
It is disappointing that the article brought into question the experience and professionalism of our officers, particularly those in the Major Crime Unit. Our officers are highly trained, and I have the utmost confidence in their abilities. Further, our officers are extremely dedicated, and the investigators in the Major Crime Unit are no exception. They eat, breathe and sleep the homicide and missing person files they are assigned. In fact, they take these cases personally and do everything possible to solve them.
As an organization, we strive to solve every homicide but some are not easily solved. The reality is that some - but certainly not all - homicide victims were involved in the criminal element. Police are dealing with the criminals' code of silence, which is frustrating for the officers who are putting their hearts and souls into solving these crimes. We need the public's help. Witness information is the key ingredient required to help solve our unsolved homicides.
What is most disconcerting is the specific information about individual files that was contained in the article. This could very well jeopardize the integrity of those files and open up old wounds for the families involved. We have reached out to the families in question to assure them that work continues on their loved ones' cases.
Mr. Martin's contribution to Halifax Regional Police was valuable, however, it is important to note that he has not worked within our organization for four years and since his departure, significant work has been put into those files and numerous leads followed up on, none of which he is privy to as a retired police officer. As a result, some of the information presented in the story is incorrect. Had Mr. Kimber asked us to clarify certain points, we would have set the record straight, which no doubt would have resulted in a more balanced and accurate account of our unsolved homicide files. The simple truth is that all exhibits are accounted for and the RCMP file referenced in the story has been in our possession for many years.
With respect to statistics, they rarely tell the whole story. The nature of crime is such that some years our clearance rates are not where we want them. However, it must be noted that the average clearance rate for murder files in Canada was 70% in 2007 and 69% in 2008; HRM's clearance rate for the same period was 71% in both years.
Decisions surrounding the scaling back of aspects of major files are neither made lightly nor without consultation with a number of people within the organization and, in some cases, outside the organization. It is easy to criticize management, but it is the role of senior officers to ask the right questions and make difficult decisions. Mr. Kimber relied heavily on one person's perspective. Mr. Martin obviously did not like the decisions that were made but that does not translate into a given that they were wrong.
Mr. Kimber claims that no one in senior management has any investigative experience. On the contrary, I was assigned to the Criminal Investigation Division for 14 years and have investigated many murders and served as the lead investigator on many major criminal investigations locally, nationally and internationally. I take great pride in our organizational experience and assure the public that Halifax Regional Police will continue to pursue every avenue to help solve these crimes.
I would ask that this Letter to the Editor be printed in its entirety so our citizens are privy to a full and balanced picture of the unsolved homicide situation in HRM.
Frank A Beazley
Chief of Police
Halifax Regional Police