Sandy Cameron, a VPD civilian clerk from 1979 to 2001, denies she was ever dismissive, racist or derogatory to those filing missing persons reports during her testimony at Missing Women's Inquiry in Vancouver, British Columbia, Monday April 23, 2012.
Credits: CARMINE MARINELLI/QMI AGENCY
Sandy Cameron - who worked with the Vancouver missing persons unit from 1979 to 2001 - also testified that family members were often "highly emotional" and "frustrated" when missing persons files vanished into a "Never-Neverland" due to the continual turnover in her department.
"Not everyone I spoke to was polite to me and quite possibly I wasn't polite to them, but I would never make derogatory statements of any nature," Cameron said, adding she spoke to 2,000-3,000 people a year.
She said during the 80s and early 90s, the only officers assigned to missing persons were those with health issues or awaiting retirement. Most considered it a "dead end job" but could be coaxed into putting in six months in exchange for "the back door" into homicide or robbery units.
"(It) was the carrot that was dangling before them," she said. "But you have to have someone in there who has a real passion and wants to do that work.
"Missing persons to me is very important. It was a job I worked hard at. I loved it... You loved reconnecting people."
But family members of Robert Pickton's murder victims have alleged Cameron was often rude and sarcastic, would occasionally misrepresent herself as a police officer and made it difficult for them to file a report.
Last week, Lila Purcell testified her sister, Dorothy Purcell, now dead, reported her daughter Tanya Holyk missing in the fall of 1996, but that Cameron called Holyk "a cokehead" who'd simply "abandoned" her baby.
Cameron denied making the comments, saying it was Dorothy who suggested her daughter was "having a holiday from the baby."
Cameron also refuted claims she'd impersonated an officer, saying she even made sure her business cards said she was a civilian.
Cameron claimed she was being "scapegoated" by Vancouver police, saying colleagues had warned her "to watch my back," and "I'm a civilian and I'm going to be the easiest person to blame."
Lori-Ann Ellis - sister-in-law of Cara Ellis, whose remains were found in a 2002 police raid of the Pickton's Port Coquitlam, BC, pig farm - didn't buy Cameron's sometimes-tearful testimony.
"I have not been this upset with any witnesses that have been on that stand," said Ellis, who's attended the hearing every day. "Being a family member whose had her venomous words thrown at me, it's an act.
"If you'd ever heard the tone that she used when she talked to you it was disrespectful, it was arrogant and it just really makes me angry."
The other panel member on the stand, former 911 operator Rae-Lynn Dicks, testified the Vancouver police department was biased against sex-trade workers, and forbade taking missing persons reports for anyone without a fixed address.
"It was systematic," Dicks said, describing how some officers would mimic drunk aboriginal women and speak with accents.
"I was being told to stop being a bleeding heart, follow policy, grow up. These people are scum of the Earth. We're not going to spend valuable time or money to try to find them. They're hookers."
On Monday, commissioner Wally Oppal announced a series of six public policy forums as part of the inquiry's study commission, focusing on how to improve the safety and security of vulnerable women. The forums will be held downtown Vancouver from May 1 to 10.