Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Clifford Olson

Long Hot Summer of '81

 I still relive the horror of those events when I am forced to recall the summer of 1981. Supt. Bruce Northorp, head of the task force in The Case of the Missing Lower Mainland Children.

The summer heat wave did nothing to help the investigation. By the first week of August the panic was spreading. Newscasts and headlines fuelled the fright: Cunning Killer With Blazing Eyes and Hot Summer Helps Slayer Elude Police. The political pressure mounted daily.

Meanwhile a task force was in the works to handle the disappearances, directed by Superintendent Bruce Northorp, who was responsible and accountable for the Olson case. The coordinated investigation was begun in the hopes of quelling the brewing public panic. I felt strongly the families of the victims should not first hear any disturbing news through the media, explained Northorp. They deserved every consideration available and should know they were not forgotten in the rush of police work.

British Columbia was covered by a structure of separate police jurisdictions, with a dozen independent city forces, and over one hundred detachments staffed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The multifaceted organization comprises federal, provincial and municipal policing responsibilities.

Two of the problems affecting the Olson investigation, described in Where Shadows Linger, written in the year 2000, were transfers of key personnel and shortages of staff, which resulted in overtaxed police officers. Some left the province, others were transferred to new duties within District One.... Back in 1981 there were also problems of jurisdiction and second-guessing, with subordinates criticizing the men in charge. In major cases, an investigator may solicit a range of viewpoints from colleagues, but the overall investigation can rarely be run by consensus. There must be a decision-maker. This was evident from the fragmented efforts that occurred before Bruce Northorp was named coordinator of the 1981 task force.

It was when Northorp came aboard that the police began tailing Olson again.


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