Report finds 'serious flaws' in how Toronto police investigated missing-persons cases

·2 min read

TORONTO — An independent review has found systemic discrimination contributed to deficiencies in a number of missing-persons investigations conducted by Toronto police.

The review, led by former judge Gloria Epstein, examined policies and procedures related to missing-persons cases, as well as how officers investigated the disappearances of residents who were later found to have been killed.

It focused on the eight men murdered by serial killer Bruce McArthur, as well as Tess Richey, a young woman whose body was found in an outdoor stairwell by her mother, and Alloura Wells, a trans woman found dead in a ravine.

Epstein says she found "serious flaws" in how missing-persons cases, even beyond those at the centre of the review, were investigated.

The issues identified in the report include a lack of communication within the police service, between the force and the police board, and with the community, as well as an often unnecessary amount of secrecy that undermined public trust.

Epstein also found investigations were inconsistent, and in many instances, "basic investigative steps were overlooked or delayed," while searches were at times "disorganized, incomplete or poorly documented."

The probe, which cannot make findings of misconduct or criminal liability, was ordered in the summer of 2018 after McArthur's arrest but did not initially include his crimes in order to preserve his right to a fair trial.

Its scope was later expanded to include that case after McArthur pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of eight men with ties to Toronto's gay village.

The case stirred significant concern in Toronto's LGBTQ community regarding how police investigated missing-person reports. Many voiced fears that investigations were affected by systemic bias and discrimination.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 13, 2021.

The Canadian Press