The Investigation Software Company
History of Major Case Management in Ontario Canada
Paul Kenneth Bernardo was suspected of more than a dozen brutal sexual assaults in Scarborough, Canada, within the jurisdiction of the Ontario Provincial Police. As his attacks grew in frequency they also grew in brutality, to the point of several murders. Then just as police were closing in the attacks suddenly stopped. That is when the Ontario police knew they had a problem. Because their suspect was not in jail, they knew he had either died or fled to a location outside their jurisdiction to commit his crimes.
The events following Bernardo’s disappearance in Toronto and his eventual capture in St. Catharines, would ultimately lead to an intense investigation into police practices throughout the Province of Ontario, Canada. The investigation results would show glaring weaknesses in investigation management and information sharing between police districts.
Bill Van Allen’s belief in a better way of conducting police business pushed him into the leadership role of an elite group of investigators, called the Campbell Commission Implementation Project, which sought to bring Ontario Provincial Police investigation methods to the forefront of law enforcement.
Under the direction of Van Allen, the Campbell Implementation group’s charter was to meet eleven objectives relating to investigation management.
In their worldwide hunt to find cutting edge investigative methods and technologies, officers found shockingly few effective solutions. Then investigators came across PowerCase, an investigation management system based on the best practices of law enforcement organizations around the world. Today every stage of major investigations are managed by Ontario police who use the software to collect, organize, link and present investigation evidence.
Using PowerCase, investigators now capture disparate information concerning a case and then rapidly see connections to evidence already collected and associated with related cases — information that could otherwise go unnoticed. For example, when information is put into PowerCase, connections between statements from witness #1 and witness #103 are presented to investigators, even if the investigators who collected the information never speak with one another. Moreover, should information not be an exact match, such as Bernardo vs. Benano, or 805 Main Street vs. 508 Main Street, the software will connect the information and present it to investigators.
Another aspect of automating part of the investigative process is linking evidence from seemingly unrelated cases. As part of all investigations taking place in Ontario today, PowerCase alerts are sent to investigators who may not know that they are seeking the same suspect in different cities, or are investigating crimes with similar profiles. In this manner, investigators share information with unprecedented levels of effectiveness and efficiency. This kind of information sharing prevents another Bernardo case from occurring, as it did with the Bedroom Rapist case.
Furthermore, police are liberated from many of the tedious aspects of law enforcement. Leaving phone record analysis to the software, for example, provides an opportunity for officers to question more people, or perform other aspects of police work that lead to faster case resolution.
Among the many additional benefits of Ontario’s groundbreaking PowerCase investigation capabilities provides is consistently high investigative standards that are able to stand up to increasingly rigorous courtroom scrutiny.
There Is No “Solve” Button
While PowerCase underwent adoption in the Province of Ontario, opposition to investigation management software was encountered on many levels. After all, police work has been done in much the same manner for the past 100 years, and software doesn’t solve crimes, police officers do. Nevertheless, crimes, clues and convictions are all recorded on paper today in many law enforcement organizations. But after dramatic successes mounted in Ontario, including convictions in cold cases, Van Allen and his team steadily changed mind-sets throughout the force. Crimes are now solved faster, easily passing courtroom muster as judges and prosecutors recognize that cases investigated using PowerCase consistently stand up to legal challenges.
Today most of the Ontario Police force uses PowerCase software and methods as they would any other investigative tool. While a minority views its effectiveness with disbelief, others see it as one more weapon in their arsenal against crime.
With the continued commitment of Van Allen’s team, the Ontario Provincial Police are leading their profession in investigation management techniques and practices.
As Campbell Commission Inspector Gary Parmenter put it, “the ability to collect, analyze and share information is far more powerful against criminal activity than any gun we can carry. It’s just like when telephones, two-way radios and cell phones were adopted back in the day. Our ability to collect, analyze and share information puts us one more step ahead of the bad guys.”
Pioneering Law Enforcement
Today all objectives of the Campbell Commission task force have been met and put the Ontario Provincial Police in the vanguard of law enforcement. Police organizations from the UK, Australia, Singapore and more, now study the case management and information sharing systems pioneered in Ontario. In these countries, as in the Province of Ontario, cases like that of Paul Kenneth Bernardo are becoming more rare.
Paradoxically, Bill Van Allen now says one of his most pressing concerns is the fact that law enforcement is often judged by how quickly it solves major cases like that of Paul Kenneth Bernardo. When cases are solved more rapidly, the instances of high profile investigations become far fewer. Crimes can now be avoided with greater frequency and that kind of crime fighting success doesn’t make headlines. “It’s a problem I’m happy to work with,” says Van Allen.