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Major Case Management System: Keeping Our Communities Safe
By Cara Everson

In the late 1980s, Paul Bernardo committed a series of murders in different cities and towns throughout Ontario. At the time, there were no mechanisms in place for police services to communicate with one another regarding crimes that could be serial or predatory, making them difficult to solve. As a result, the Lieutenant Governor appointed Mr. Justice Archie Campbell to conduct a review of various aspects of the investigations that led to charges against Paul Bernardo. The Campbell Inquiry Report highlighted the systemic failures on how multi-jurisdictional crimes that are serial and predatory in nature were managed by police. One of the crucial factors in the Inquiry was the lack of information sharing between police services, which contributed to the inability to connect the crimes Bernardo committed in different cities.1
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Due to the Inquiry, one of the key recommendations made was to establish a single major case management system to ensure management of major and multi-jurisdictional serial predator investigations was established. Designated major case offences are the most serious of crimes and are considered serial or predatory in nature, with the possibility of occurring in multiple jurisdictions. Having a set of standards across the province ensures major cases are managed consistently and provides the public with a level of assurance that they are being investigated appropriately. Although the Major Case Management (MCM) System consists of a set of defined major case offences, investigative standards, standardized training, and roles and responsibilities required to conduct such investigations,2  it also requires senior police leaders to ensure mechanisms and resources are in place to manage such investigations.

In 2004, York Regional Police implemented an MCM system in accordance with legislative requirements. To ensure adequate and effective policing services are provided, York Regional Police commenced an internal audit on the major case management system. A pragmatic approach was used to prepare for the audit by reviewing internal procedures and processes related to MCM, specifically on how major cases were being investigated and managed in accordance with legislative requirements.

One of the investigative tools used for major case management is a common software system called PowerCase. This tool is used for the purpose of undertaking and managing investigations throughout Ontario. The PowerCase system is the central repository that allows police to manage information collected in large complex investigations, such as officer reports, tips, messages, phone records, that are gathered by numerous investigators, regardless of police jurisdiction. It indexes and extracts information, and then sends trigger matches to investigators across all jurisdictions for commonalities and associations.3

This article discusses the methodology used to conduct the internal audit of the major case management system at York Regional Police.


THE AUDIT TEAM 

The Audit Team consisted of two internal Auditors from the Quality Assurance Unit and a second police officer with MCM experience. By including an officer with MCM experience, the auditors were able to gain a better understanding of the internal process used within York Regional Police and to clarify information in a timely manner, when required.


AUDIT OBJECTIVES

In order to develop audit objectives, the audit team reviewed the legislative requirements identified in the Police Services Act, Ontario Regulation 354/04 Major Case Management and the Ontario Major Case Management Manual (MCM Manual). Key information was identified and evaluated against internal data, processes, and procedures.

To be able to determine compliance, it was necessary to extract reports with major case offence codes such as sexual assaults, homicides, etc. A stratified random sampling approach was used to determine which reports would be examined. Some of the information gathered was to:

  • Identify whether an occurrence was a threshold or non-threshold offence (identified in the MCM Manual)
  • Determine if the required information was entered into PowerCase within the 30-day timeline criteria
  • Determine if the lead investigator had the required training necessary to conduct the investigation 

In addition to analyzing statistical data, the audit team needed to establish a clear understanding of the process, so interviews were conducted with the MCM Coordinator to review processes, the history of the unit, and workload demands.


STAFFING


The audit identified that the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services had added more offences to the initial designated list of major cases, expanding the initial list from six to sixteen. To support the need for additional resources, the audit team highlighted the 2015 Ontario Major Case Management Annual Report that identifies a five-year trend (see chart) in PowerCase Usage and Serial Predator Coordination. This demonstrates an increase in PowerCase usage by a yearly average of 10 percent.4  Police services need to prepare for the increasing demand for managing major cases, requiring more resources for investigation and data entry.


FIVE-YEAR TREND: POWERCASE USAGE

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DATA ENTRY


York Regional Police (YRP) has a separate MCM Unit staffed with trained civilian members dedicated to entering major case information into PowerCase. When a threshold offence occurs, members from the MCM unit may be assigned to work with investigators and add investigative information immediately. This is considered a huge benefit to investigators because it ensures complex information is filed and organized in a timely manner, making it less cumbersome and easily accessible for investigators to analyze for investigative and court purposes.

As a best practice at YRP, an internal procedure on MCM was developed to ensure members have clear direction and responsibilities when investigating and managing major cases.


TRAINING

When examining the training criteria identified in the MCM Manual, the audit team reviewed the number of times courses are offered by the Ontario Police College throughout the year. Due to the limited amount of times MCM courses are offered throughout the year and with limited designated spaces available for each police service, it can be difficult to get officers trained immediately. To work around this issue, YRP has assigned an internal member with the required credentials to teach officers on how to use the PowerCase system. This enables YRP to train officers internally rather than waiting for space at the Ontario Police College, although this isn’t always possible for some police services to implement due to a lack of resources.


CONCLUSION

At the conclusion of the audit, it was determined that a pragmatic approach to MCM requires the need to continuously review internal processes and procedures due to the ever changing internal and external environment.

Without procedures in place, members lack clear direction on what their job responsibilities are and risk specific tasks not being completed, resulting in the possibility of errors. Procedures support internal processes and provide members with information for them to refer to when needed. It is an organization’s responsibility to ensure members are provided with the appropriate resources to do their jobs, such as training, procedures, and adequate supervision. Without these resources in place, members may not have the ability to effectively manage major cases, resulting in an ineffective process.

Training is also a necessary requirement for officers to investigate major cases. The lack of availability of courses at the Ontario Police College may delay the opportunity to receive training. Police services need to be resourceful when it comes to ensuring members have the necessary knowledge and skills for undertaking MCM investigations.

Finally, there can be negative consequences to not having an effective major case management system. There is a financial cost to an organization, as well as legal consequences if processes are redundant or not compliant with legislative requirements.

York Regional Police values being a leader in policing and, as such, has developed an internal framework that addresses procedure development, clarification of roles and responsibilities, MCM training, and a consistent review of the records management system.

The internal framework established has enabled York Regional Police to meet the requirements of the Provincial Major Case Management mandate, and the mission, vision and values of York Regional Police.


NOTES

1 Bernardo Investigation Review, Report of Mr. Justice Archie Campbell
2 The Ontario Major Case Management Manual, 2004
3 Public Safety Canada, Government of Canada, www.publicsafety.gc.ca
4 2015 Ontario Major Case Management Annual Report, Ontario MCM Unit


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cara Everson is a Quality Assurance Auditor at York Regional Police. She has a Master’s Degree in Leadership from the University of Guelph, a Human Resources Management Certificate from Seneca College and an Internal Auditing Certificate from the University of Toronto. She is a member of the Municipal Internal Auditors Association and the Association of Local Government Auditors.