No one wants to end the year on a sour note, but the actions of the RCMP in Penticton, concealing a murder from the community, make it inevitable.
There were three known murders in Penticton in 2017, but during a recent year-end interview with another media channel, Supt. Ted De Jager revealed there was a fourth, never announced to the public.
We agree that not naming victims until family members have been notified is the ethical choice and recognize that at times, the police need to keep elements of an investigation secret in order to protect evidence.
But it seems like a stretch when the police — as in this case with the Penticton RCMP — try to extend that secrecy to the fact of the murder itself. According to De Jager’s public statements, the public is not at risk as a result of this murder, a phrase usually used when the police are sure the murder is not random or the work of a serial killer.
If so, it makes it even less reasonable that the public knowing a murder occurred could jeopardize the investigation or prejudice a future court trial.
The last two times De Jager has delivered a report to city council, he has pointed out that while property crime has been on the rise, violent crime is dropping. Adding another murder changes the picture De Jager has been trying to paint considerably.
In most cases, there is little police can do to prevent a murder — by their very nature, a murder is usually singular in nature, either happening suddenly or as the result of secret planning. So, the existence of a fourth murder in Penticton this year does not point to a failure in policing.
But crime has been on an overall rise, not only in Penticton but also in other communities. Still, in studies and statistics released over the course of 2017, Penticton has ranked higher than many other communities in the Okanagan.
That has eroded the trust of the community in the RCMP, especially as De Jager has continued to downplay the problem of crime rates. Concealing a murder from the public, possibly even while delivering a public report to council — the date of the murder is unknown — is going to erode that trust further, and could even make it appear the Penticton RCMP are involved in a coverup.