The following is a speech delivered by WPS Police Inspector Scot Halley at the MOVA (Manitoba Organization for Victims Assistance) march of remembrance held on Saturday, April 27, 2013. The march was dedicated to the memory of victims of homicide and was designed to raise awareness for victim related issues. The event featured heartfelt speeches from Politicians and surviving family members but it was the touching emotional speech by Inspector Halley that moved the crowd and gave hope for a more victim oriented Police Service.
I am truly honoured to be here this afternoon on behalf of the Winnipeg Police Service.
On Sunday, January 21st, 1996, I was assigned to patrol duties downtown when my partner and I were dispatched to a medic call involving nine month old baby Sophia Schmidt. We were the first unit to arrive at the apartment on Toronto Street and it was immediately clear that baby Sophia had been violently beaten. She was rushed to Children’s Hospital where she died of her injuries a few days later.
As a result of the investigation, baby Sophia’s father and his girlfriend were both arrested and charged with murder. The father was eventually convicted of Criminal Negligence Causing Death. The girlfriend was convicted of manslaughter. Both received woefully inadequate sentences of four and five years respectively. Neither served their full sentences and both were given early release. Baby Sophia’s mother moved away shortly after the murder. The father left the Province shortly after his release from prison.
The girlfriend died not long after she was paroled.
Today, I am not sure if anyone in Winnipeg remembers this little girl. But I do. I think about her all the time. I remember this call as if it were yesterday. I remember the apartment, the state of it, the smells, Sophia’s bedroom. I will never forget that little girl. The call haunts me to this day. Why am I sharing this incident with you? Because I don’t believe that we, as a Police Service, have been very good at how we treat the victims of crime.
I don’t know if it is because we encounter so much violence, tragedy, and pain that we aren’t comfortable showing our emotions. We put up a façade that allows us to continue in our jobs. We act detached. We bury ourselves in the investigation. We focus on solving the crime, catching the person responsible. I am certain that some of you here today have not had a very good experience with the police. You felt frustration at not getting answers, feeling left out, unsupported, ignored.
We, as a police Service, have to change that. We need to do better. We have to do more for the victims of crime. We are pretty good at catching the bad guys, and don’t get me wrong, this is very important. But in my mind, the victims of crime are far more important than the person who committed the crime. We need to focus more attention on the victims. Help them along the long road that lies ahead.
The Winnipeg Police Service, with the support of Chief Devon Clunis, has recognized this and has recently expanded our Victim Services Section, which is a part of the Division that I am responsible for. We are changing our focus in this unit. We are going to be more engaged. We will be going to the doors of those who have been victimized, providing support, identifying the resources available for those who need it. Resources such as M.O.V.A.
If you don’t believe me, believe this. I was one of the victims of baby Sophia’s murder. I understand that we as a Police Service have to do more. No one aspires to be the victim of crime. No one gathered here ever dreamed they would one day be a part of this organization. Unspeakable tragedy brought us all together. The police need to be here too.
We can and we will do better.
This past Wednesday would have been baby Sophia’s 18th birthday. She should have been graduating from high school with a world full of hope and promise ahead of her.
Her life was stolen, but her memory lives on.
THE POLICE INSIDER – Mova Hits the Road for Victims