Wednesday, September 24, 1997

Christie Blatchford

p. News 5.

8 minutes show a cop's concern

In the endless examination of Bill Cameron's memo book and the notes he made in the summer and fall of 1986, when he was a sergeant at 52 Division downtown and a serial rapist was at work in the Church-Wellesley Sts. area, seven simple lines from Sept. 4 got only a brief mention yesterday, but in my mind they capture the complexity of the Jane Doe case and indeed, in a funny way, go straight to its heart.

The first entry, all of three lines, was about a radio call Cameron and his then-partner Sgt. Kim Derry, received about 12.30 a.m. the call was about Jane, who had been raped 11 days earlier, and who phoned the station looking for Cameron and Derry, the officers in charge of her case, to complain about some strange phone calls she had been getting at her office that night.

They were there within eight minutes. By 1 o'clock, they had her home safe and sound.

Jane, of course, is now suing their faces off. Cameron and Derry, along with then-chief Jack Marks, are the only individuals actually named in her $1.2-million lawsuit against the force.

The suit alleges first, that before her rape, police knew they were dealing with a serial attacker and that by failing to issue a specific warning to women in the area, they were negligent, and second that the reason they decided not to warn women was because, as her lawyer Sean Dewart put it, the force was then "steeped in discriminatory attitudes and values toward women from top to bottom." At its most base, then, the allegation is that Cameron and Derry screwed up, and they screwed up because they worked in a sexist organization and were inculcated in its wretched culture.

There is probably a fragment of truth in this.

Many police officers, or many of the ones I know anyway, do have a protective, even paternalistic, attitude to women. So in my experience, do firefighters, ambulance drivers and paramedics, all of them helping professions still dominated by men. The desire to save women (and children too, of course, and old people, and anyone in a wheelchair, and to a lesser degree, dogs and cars) is surely part of what propels these men into burning buildings, dark alleys where bullets are flying, underground tunnels when subway trains collide, cars about to explode in flames and all the other dirty and dangerous places they so willingly go. An excess of testosterone is not always a bad thing.

I am not offended by any of it, and in my experience, this attitude doesn't necessarily preclude these men treating their female colleagues, or any of the other women in their lives, fairly and with respect, though it may. What it does is give them a reason to do a job that no one with half a brain would otherwise want to do for, what, $50,000 a year max and all the abuse you can take?

Does it mean when Cameron and Derry raced over to Jane Doe's office that night the second they learned of her distress that they did it (though there is no evidence of this) out of a misguided sexism? Good grief; if they did the right thing, does it really matter why they did it?

Implicit in Jane's suit is the notion that sometimes that summer, the police did the wrong thing, that they wanted more to catch the rapist than they did to prevent other rapes; I can't imagine a suggestion that runs so contrary to what makes cops tick.

The outrageousness of this allegation, in Cameron's view, was evident yesterday in his body language on the witness stand when he was asked by police lawyer Bryan Finlay why he didn't issue warnings, both before the attack on Jane and after, and if they were using women as bait.

"That is absolutely untrue," Cameron, red and fidgety, snapped.

"We never used anybody as bait . . . bait implies you have foreknowledge that I didn't have. If I did, I would have had someone on the inside (of apartment buildings). We had no idea who he would attack or when he would attack or if he would."

Cameron had reasons, rational ones in my view, why, even after Jane was raped, police who went door to door in the area were ordered not to tell residents about the series of sexual assaults, only about the accompanying rash of break-and-enters. They wanted, he said, to raise the public's awareness without alarming the suspect.

"We had fairly strong beliefs he was living in the area," Cameron said, and indeed, about six weeks later, when Paul Douglas Callow was arrested, Cameron was proven right.

"My personal belief was that in this canvass we would likely be knocking on his door." A public worried about a man coming in via the balcony to rob them would also be protecting itself from a rapist coming in the same way, he figured, and they wouldn't scare off their man.

Jane's lawyer said in his opening statements last week that, "This is not a trial about bad people, but about a system that caused all sorts of people bad, good, lazy or not -- and had a bad result for my client." Yes, it did, and Jane Doe pays the price still, in all she lost that night she was raped. But I'm unconvinced the police should have, or could have, done anything differently, and what keeps playing in my head is that on the September night when Jane was alarmed by those phone calls and called for help, Bill Cameron and Kim Derry arrived within eight minutes. Eight minutes.

For their trouble, later that year, their boss, Jack Marks, issued an apology -- for their failure to issue a warning -- to the police board without consulting them, and still later, Jane Doe sued them. No wonder they say, on the job, that s--- flows downhill.

"Balcony Rapist" case... [Fiona Stewart]

Created: March 6, 1999
Last modified: March 8, 1999

J.D. Jane Doe, c/o Walnet Institute
Box 3075, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6
Tel: +1 (604) 488-0710