Major Case Management (MCM) is an innovative approach to solving major case crimes and dealing with complex incidents. A major case is a real or suspected crime of such severity that it creates an intense public demand for identification, apprehension, and prosecution of the offender. Major cases also include those crimes which necessitate a substantial commitment of resources for a prolonged period of time or which require the application of complex investigative techniques.

Law Enforcement uses MCM methodologies and technology to investigate certain types of serious crimes – homicides, sexual assaults and abductions, for example. MCM combines specialized police training and investigation techniques with major case management computer software systems. The software manages the vast amounts of information involved in investigations of serious crimes.
It is especially useful in helping police identify common links in crimes committed in different locations – crimes that might have been committed by the same person.

All investigations need some kind of structure. The more serious and complex the investigation, the more rigorous that structure needs to be. The MCM model for conducting serious, complex investigations has been developed to provide a structure for major investigations. It was originally created by for use by law enforcement in homicide and sexual assault investigations. However, MCM is used by many other investigative agencies, including in anti-terrorism and air crash investigations. MCM techniques have also been used as part of non-criminal investigations, such as investigating an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Origins of Major Case Management

Many concepts of MCM have been in existence since the mid 1980’s when UK police introduced HOLMES (Home Office Large Major Enquiry System), and then subsequently HOLMES 2. Other large police services, including The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), have also adopted methodologies that fit into the category.

In Ontario, Canada, however, MCM owes its existence to the case of Paul Bernardo.

Paul Kenneth Bernardo was suspected of more than a dozen brutal sexual assaults in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada. 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’s when Ontario law enforcement 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 would ultimately lead to an intense 1995 enquiry into police practices throughout the Province of Ontario.  The enquiry, headed by the late Justice Archie Campbell, showed glaring weaknesses in investigation management and information sharing between police districts.

Campbell studied the court and police documents for four months and then produced a scathing report that documented systemic jurisdictional turf wars among the police services in Toronto and the surrounding regions investigating a string of nearly 20 brutal rapes in the Scarborough area of Toronto and the murders of two teenaged girls in the St. Catharines, Ontario area. He concluded that the investigation “was a mess from beginning to end.”

Campbell went on to conclude that there was an “astounding and dangerous lack of co-operation between police services” and a litany of errors, miscalculations and disputes. Among the Justice’s findings was a key recommendation that a major case management system was needed to:

  1. Record, organize, manage, analyze and follow up all investigative data
  2. Ensure all relevant information sources are applied to the investigation
  3. Recognize at an early stage any linked or associated incidents
  4. “Trigger” alerts to users of commonalities between incidents
  5. Embody an investigative methodology incorporating standardized procedures

MCM is born

As a result of the Campbell report, MCM was born as a methodology for conducting major investigations. Ontario’s PowerCase software maximizes investigative efficiency, minimizes the chance of important evidence being missed and has an external person or group evaluate how the investigation is going.

MCM Components

Ontario’s MCM methodology is based on the following components, commonly referred to as The Command Triangle.

Within the triangle, three executive functions are responsible for conducting the investigation. In a non-complex investigation, a single officer may perform these functions. As the complexity of the investigation increases, one or more law enforcement officials will perform these functions.


  1. Senior Investigating Officer: He or she is responsible for the broad strategic direction of the investigation.
  2. Primary Investigator: He or she runs the investigation at the tactical level, providing day-to-day coordination, guidance and control for everyone else involved in the fact-finding process.
  3. File Coordinator: He or she coordinates the vast amounts of documentation gathered and generated during a major investigation.

Major case management is a complex investigative activity because it involves the command of team members in a pressure-filled environment. Within the uncertain investigative environment, case managers must ensure that their responsibilities are carried out efficiently and effectively. For instance, they must ensure that all necessary investigative information is collected; the roles and responsibilities of the investigative team are clearly defined; the resources required for completing tasks are available; ethical investigative standards are upheld; and, that the investigative team can quickly adapt to changing situations.


Law Enforcement agencies may sometimes collaborate with other agencies to conduct investigations. That requires coordination and cooperation. MCM is helping in these situations. It is targeted at working collaboratively with outside agencies to progress the investigation. One important aspect of the MCM model is that linked investigations involving one or more jurisdictions or agencies must be under a unified command and control. That avoids duplication of effort and helps to coordinate information gathered in one case that might be vital to another linked investigation.

Major Case Management Software

At the technology core of MCM is the advanced, purpose-built software which processes the vast amounts of information arising in a major case. It is invaluable in organizing, retrieving and analyzing large volumes of investigative data. MCM software assists the Senior Investigating Officer to manage a major investigation including resource deployment, and assists police services in ensuring that major case investigations are focused, methodically controlled and audited throughout the investigative life cycle. Arguably, the best-known MCM software system is “PowerCase” which is used by all police services in the Province of Ontario, along with other jurisdictions in Canada and other countries.