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.