This is the basis of several recent cases in which police departments were sued for negligence. In one such case, the children of four women who were allegedly murdered by BC serial killer Robert Pickton have filed lawsuits against the Vancouver Police Department, the RCMP, and several individually named police officers. The allegations are that the women’s deaths were the result of negligence of the police forces for the following reasons:
a) If a proper investigation of the earlier murders had been done, Picton would have been arrested and in custody and so could not have committed the subsequent murders;
b) The police were aware of a pattern of murders in the downtown east side community of Vancouver but failed to warn vulnerable women of this pattern.
In another case, a Toronto woman sued the Metropolitan Toronto Commissioners of Police for negligence, violation of her Charter equality rights, and infringement of her right to security of the person, after police failed to link a string of violent rapes in one neighbourhood as being the work of a single attacker. The judge, who found the police responsible on all three counts, ruled that the police had failed in their duty to the women of the community by not warning them of the danger for fear they would become “hysterical”.
Unfortunately, cases where police fail to fulfill their duty to the public continue to occur. One benefit of lawsuits for such negligence, aside from providing restitution to victims, is that the police departments in question may revise their internal policies or take part in additional training to strengthen investigative skills and be less discriminatory in their judgements. Everyone in the community, regardless of whether they have been the victim of a crime, relies on the police to safeguard their wellbeing, and as such the police must be taken to task for times when they fail to do so.