Yukon RCMP Supt. Brian Jones says the territorial government’s funding for a unit to focus on unsolved murders is exactly what the police service needed to relieve the “extraordinary pressure” on its Major Crimes Unit.
In an interview with the News March 16, Jones said the unusually high number of homicides in the Yukon past year and a half and the pace at which they were occurring — nine within 12 months at one point, and eight in total during 2017 — meant the unit’s workload “wasn’t sustainable for our employees.”
However, he said the Yukon government’s announcement March 6 that it would be spending $442,000 per year for the next three years to create a Historical Case Unit — a team of three investigators that will look into unsolved murders and missing persons cases as well as liaise with affected families and communities — “speaks directly” to that issue.
“We received exactly what we requested,” Jones said, adding that the Yukon government was understanding and responsive when the Yukon RCMP raised the issue of the sudden pressure on its Major Case Unit.
“When that pace of new homicides is coming in, the pace with which they were coming in was impacting and has for awhile, the ability to really focus and concentrate on those more historical homicides like Allan (Waugh’s),” Jones said, referring to a case from 2014 where the 69-year-old grandfather was found dead in his McIntyre home. His homicide remains unsolved.
“The dedicated funding to a Historical Case Unit is going to allow us to both focus on those historical homicides and when, and if, there’s a new homicide or a fresh homicide, we’ll have a larger group of skilled and trained investigators that we can apply to those new homicides…. We’re confident that within three years, the value of the unit will be self-evident and we’ll move forward.”
The unit will also be looking at missing persons files, which the Yukon RCMP have on record dating back to 1967, and working with affected families, Yukon First Nations and community groups.
“The thing that’s been guiding me in my efforts is the families and regardless of what the answer is, being able to provide them an answer,” Jones said. “I know that sounds nebulous, but an arrest isn’t always the solution or the final result.… I think the establishment of this Historical Case Unit is a significant step in being able to do that.”
Jones said hiring for the unit is still underway, and until the three positions are permanently staffed, there will be short-term assignments or secondments to fill the roles.
“That’s new money for new bodies, new positions, so, in the interim until we can get them, we’ll look to fill those positions from within existing resources,” he said.
Jones emphasized the operational pressure was something unique to the Major Crimes Unit, he added, and not something that was impacting police work in other parts of Yukon RCMP. At present, the force has no plans to hire additional officers in other areas.
“Where we sit right now, based on the current situation, I’m comfortable where we’re at,” Jones said of available resources. “Not every issue is best solved by throwing another police officer at it, but as trends develop and as we look at the police priorities that have been established in the territory, we’re constantly assessing that.… But right now, in a broad sense, I’m comfortable where we’re at.”
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