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Former Policeman honored with Sterling Prize


http://www.canada.com/

Vancouver Sun (10/31/2005)
By Neal Hall

Kim Rossmo is no stranger to controversy. In 1995, he was at the centre of a controversial decision by Vancouver's police chief to promote him from constable to the rank of detective-inspector and put him in charge of the department's new geographic profiling unit.

Rossmo, who left the police force in 2000, became internationally known a decade ago as a graduate student at Simon Fraser University, where he developed a computer program called geographic profiling that links geographic information and criminals to catch serial killers and rapists.

He became the first police officer in Canada to earn a doctorate in criminology, and law enforcement agencies around the world now use geographic profiling.

"I've now consulted on 30 serial murder investigations," Rossmo said Friday while in Vancouver to attend a conference on controversy, where he will receive the Simon Fraser University Nora and Ted Sterling Prize for Controversy.

The prize was established in 1993 by the late Ted Sterling, a computing science professor, and his wife to honour work that challenges complacency and provokes controversy.

Rossmo will be presented the prize today at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, followed by his lecture, titled Loyalty to the Truth.

He plans to discuss how the search for truth can conflict with an individual's allegiance to personal beliefs, community or an organization such as a police force.

"If we all agree on what is true, then there is no opportunity for controversy," Rossmo said. But that's rarely the case, he added.

"The more conservative the organization and the greater the threat to its status quo, the stronger the resistance and the larger the controversy."

Rossmo, now a research professor in the criminal justice department at Texas State University, plans to discuss this issue within the context of Vancouver's missing women police investigation.

During his controversial wrongful dismissal lawsuit against the Vancouver police department, which he lost, he testified that he had advised senior officers in 1998 to advise the public that a serial killer might be preying on women in the Downtown Eastside.

At the time, Insp. Fred Biddlecombe, who was in charge of the major crime section, dismissed Rossmo's theory that a serial killer might be responsible.

Families of victims have blamed police for not doing a proper investigation on the missing women case. Vancouver police Chief Jamie Graham assigned Deputy Chief Doug Lepard to prepare a report on the matter, which isn't expected to be released until after the trial of Robert (Willy) Pickton, 55, who has been charged with the murder of 27 women. The trial is expected to begin next year.

Rossmo said he was interviewed for more than four hours by Lepard for the report.

"I have to give him and Jamie Graham credit for doing that," Rossmo said. "I don't think they pulled any punches."

He hopes the report will provide future lessons for police and lead to change and reform. "I would much rather see the police improve than being blamed," he said.