EDITORIALS, LOCAL NEWS

WPS CHIEF CLEARS AIR ON GIBSON TRAGEDY

PHOTO JGJ
GIBSON FAMILY HOME CRIME SCENE – PHOTO JGJ

Closure.

Closure is an over used, simplistic word when it comes to the world of tragedy and death.

It’s a word I’ve always hesitated to use when it comes to Homicide Investigations.  My experience in these matters tells me that nothing is ever “closed” when it comes to the profound after effects associated with a senseless killing.  The gaping wounds left by the tragic loss of a loved one are never truly “closed.”  Those losses are exponentially multiplied when the tragedies involve the murder of young children.

There is no closure.

Just as there has been no closure in the disturbing case of Lisa Gibson (32) and her two beautiful children, Anna (2) & Nicholas (3 months).

How could there be any semblance of closure when a journalistic witch hunt sought to lay blame at the feet of the two young Patrol Officers assigned to the primary response car dispatched to the scene.

The blame game outraged a high-ranking Police Officer who expressed his concern for the emotional well-being of the officers in question, “I feel for the two officers, attending to a routine call with no information that 99,999 time out of 100,000 would have been a child playing with a phone,” he said.  ”They weren’t looking for two children in a bathtub, they were conducting a cursory search looking for anyone in the house to explain the 911 call,” he continued.

“It sickens me that the armchair quarterbacks are attacking the officers when they tried to do the best they could under the circumstances,” he stressed.

One of those arm-chair quarterbacks is Winnipeg Free Press columnist Gordon Sinclair Jr, a man many Police Officers consider to be an antagonistic, jaded reporter.

Sinclair and many journalists like him were relentless in their pursuit of information from the Police Service regarding the time line that would undoubtedly help them assign the blame they seemed so motivated to attach in their search for the story inside the story.

The argument for the release of the information rested on the need for transparency and the obligation for the Police to act in the public interest.

On Wednesday, Police Chief Devon Clunis acquiesced by providing a time line and by granting a one on one interview to Sinclair.  That time line shows 26 minutes and 14 seconds elapsed between the time the first officers arrived on scene and the children were discovered by their grandmother.

It didn’t take Sinclair long to get to the point;

“That time line, the 26 minutes, is there any way of knowing or do you know or does the Medical examiner know whether or not that was critical, could the children have been saved in that short period of time?

Chief Clunis responded;

“That’s a fair question, but there’s nothing from the ME’s report that could indicate that any actions by the WPS played any part in the ultimate tragic outcome, so no, really we can’t really say with any type of certainty around that question.”

A generous response given the circumstances of the case.

But was it really a “fair” question?

What purpose does the question really serve?

Why is it so difficult to accept that Lisa Gibson was responsible for the deaths of her children?

Why the need to assign blame to the first Police Officers who arrived on scene?

In fairness to Chief Clunis death scene investigation is not his area of expertise.

After working on over two hundred (200) homicide cases and attending dozens of other death scenes that included natural causes, suicides and accidental deaths, it happens to be an area in which I have a tremendous amount of experience.

That experience tells me the 26 minute and 14 second time gap was of no consequence when it came to the potential to save the lives of the Gibson children.

You don’t have to be a Forensic Pathologist to know it takes mere seconds to kill a child by drowning.  You don’t have to be an experienced Homicide Investigator to know that Lisa Gibson wouldn’t have called 911 and committed suicide if she hadn’t found herself staring into the lifeless faces of her two dead children in the calm that followed her uncontrollable rage.

So is the question really “fair?”

Is it really “fair” to speculate the children could have survived if the Police had only found them upon their arrival to the family home?

Is it really “fair” to expect Police Officers responding to a cryptic call to “Send Police,” with no other information, to conduct a detailed search of a private family home?

Is it really “fair” to play the “what if” game?

I don’t think it is.

If you want to assess blame there are plenty of directions my associates in the media could point their accusatory fingers.  They could start with the people who had an opportunity to develop a proactive plan to avoid the tragedy and not entirely focus on the reactive Police response.

As is to often the case, the Police emerge as the easy target in the post script.

Gordon Sinclair’s question is symbolic of our society’s continuing evolution down the path of responsibility avoidance.

That evolution has translated to our criminal courts excusing criminal behaviour by using terms like “reduced moral blameworthiness” for criminals with substance abuse or mental health issues, or for Aboriginal offenders who receive extraordinary benefits in criminal justice by virtue of Gladue reports that reduce their criminal culpability.

Personal responsibility has apparently become a thing of the past.

Institutional blaming has become the “soup of the day.”

The thing people seem to forget is that institutions are comprised of human beings.  Human beings who have feelings, who feel pain and who suffer from the pointless conjecture and blame games people in the media like to indulge in.

I hope the young Officers at the center of the controversy have learned how to steel themselves against the speculation that continues to rage in this case.  I hope they can accept the fact they can’t change the tragic outcome of this horrific incident.

I hope they realize they’re not responsible for the deaths of the Gibson children regardless of who found them in the bathtub or what time they were found.

The time has come to let these wounds heal.

RELATED LINKS:

The Police Insider – “The Gibson Tragedy – Hard Truths”

The Police Insider – “WPS Inadvertently Adds to Stigma Attached to Mental Illness”

The Police Insider – “Police Confirm Murder / Suicide In Gibson Tragedy”

Winnipeg Free Press – “Clunis Reflects on Response Time”

16 Comments

  1. I certainly have nothing against Mr Sinclair…..

    As a matter of fact I’ve collaborated with him on more than one occasion.

    Its pretty obvious that questions regarding the 26 minute time line are suggestive of blame assessments aimed at the first officers on scene.

    I have no problem backing up anything I say and as far as patronizing my readers, I recognize people have opposing views and I do my utmost to respect them. I don’t call that patronizing.

    To quote one of my former Sergeants…..”Don’t tell me what to do, you’re not the boss of me.”

    Happy Holidays…

  2. Thank you for responding. Still trying to find where he focused on laying blame on the first Police to arrive on the scene. Are you reading into this interview b/c you have something against the interviewer? Absolutely, the events require a much deeper analysis…are you prepared to put your money where your words are? Don’t patronize your readers by thanking them for offering balance….this is your job…now start doing it!

  3. I agree, most people, myself included, do want to know if the tragedy could have been prevented.

    It’s an important question to ask.

    Not sure how we answer it by asking a question that is entirely focused on laying the blame on the first Police Officers who arrived at the scene.

    The events that took place at the Gibson family home merit much deeper analysis than Mr Sinclair offered us in his article.

    I do appreciate and respect the fact you are trying to offer some balance.

    Thank you for commenting.

  4. Gordon Sinclair asked a question that the public have also been asking… I hardly call this a witch hunt. Of course people want to know if this tragedy could have been prevented….. Based on your story and the comments, this is looking more like a GS witch hunt.

  5. That made me laugh…..good one Phil…

  6. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/more-winnipeg-citizens-happy-with-police-survey-says-1.2454612

    “Of the more than 600 residents who participated in the satisfaction survey, about 70 per cent of them said they thought the police are doing an excellent or good job.”

    71%. They never asked me.

  7. Usually the comment section for Sinclair’s columns are closed fairly quickly, less so now that they’ve put up a pay wall.

    It’s amazing what passes for journalism in Winnipeg.

  8. Interesting….thanks for sharing these!

  9. Just a few of the comments left by posters following the release of this article by Gorden Sinclair:

    “Tamaro
    8:09 AM on 12/5/2013
    ABS — anybody but Sinclair. Please.

    91eh
    8:53 AM on 12/5/2013
    Poor journalism – talk about an axe to grind

    w 97, n 50
    9:11 AM on 12/5/2013
    I was all set to read this story until I saw it was Sinclair’s.

    Rodney 2
    9:45 AM on 12/5/2013
    Boy o boy, GSJ really has a hate on for the WPS.

    OBSERVER6
    10:30 AM on 12/5/2013
    Other than sensationalism and another reason to feed GSJr”s dislike of the WPS, was there really any purpose to this article? Has WFP changed its policy and is now trying to out-enquire the National Enquirer?

    Old Flin Flon
    11:30 AM on 12/5/2013
    Curiosity does not equal public interest. GSJ and the FP should give this a rest.

    saskatoon
    3:13 PM on 12/5/2013
    If only Gord had been sent to the house…..he would know exactly what to do!!!

    Family Guy
    1:28 PM on 12/5/2013
    Yes, it’s absolutely terrible that Gordo should pen a column that portrays the police chief in a positive light.
    Terrible, I say. Terrible.

    How Gordo keeps a job at a newspaper is beyond me.

  10. Thank you for commenting.

  11. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    I know many people share your opinions.

  12. Not sure what story you are following Jo…

    The Police response time is not the issue in this case.

    Not sure what relevance the rest of your comments have to the story.

  13. As much as I believe the police may not have been able to prevent this tragedy…I applaud Gordon Sinclair. In light of the history of this police force, I too questioned why the police didn’t respond quicker….even if those children were already gone, the person responsible may not have been. I would expect that the police have not gotten so lackadaisical, that a call, no matter where/when or who it came from, is responded to in a manner that has the potential to be a 1/200,000 critical situation. There have been SEVERAL occasions where police have committed crimes and been exonerated because they are police officers. Shame on you James Jewell…these “human beings” are paid a decent salary to respond to ALL pleas for help.

  14. Throw this fucking media prick into a horny bulls pen & fix the no-mind. The Police don’t deserve his bully tactics, what goes around, comes around.

  15. To me it seems like the officers would have a) found the mother with the children alive and therefore nothing to be done or b) found her with the dead children, with nothing to be done, as she wouldnt have answered the door while it was happening…

    They did nothing wrong, and its awful that that burden is being placed on them by people who have no idea what it is like to be in that situation, and never will.

    There is only one person responsible for the tragedy and unfortunately she was also victim to it.

  16. Anyone with any semblance of common sense would realize that these children were dead, by the hands of their own mother, when the call was placed.

    Gordon Sinclair Jr. is a simpleton bleeding heart police hater who has no common sense.

    Articles such as this have been common since he began his anti-police crusade with the book “Cowboys and Indians”. Nowhere has there been such a slanted, biased and off-base opinion of police and authority as one of his drivel spouting diatribes.

    Gordon Sinclair Jr. just wishes to follow in the footsteps of his father, who got him his “job” and he struggles to maintain relevance in the world of print media, where he should have been fired from years ago.

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