2012 Winners of the IACP/Thomson Reuters Award for Excellence in Criminal Investigation

Sponsored by Thomson Reuters, the award for Excellence in Criminal Investigations recognizes quality achievement and innovation in managing and conducting criminal investigations with the goal of sharing information to advance the art and science of criminal investigations. Evaluation criteria are based on (1) innovation in the development or enhancement of investigative techniques, (2) the significance of the contribution to the advancement of the art or science of criminal investigation, and (3) exceptional achievement in managing or conducting a criminal investigation.


Winner: Vancouver Integrated Riot Investigation Team


Vancouver Integrated Riot Investigation Team


From left – Andy Russell, VP Fraud Prevention and Investigations, Thomson Reuters; Investigator Jevon Vaessen, Port Moody Police Dept; Officer Jeff Tannar, New Westminster Police Service; Inspector Les Yeo, Vancouver Police Dept; Chief Jim Chu, Vancouver Police Dept; Sergeant Dale Weidman, Vancouver Police Dept; Detective Dave Kane, Royal Canadian Mounted Police; Investigator Mark Langham, Vancouver Police Dept; Detective Chris Cecil, Transit Police; A/Sgt. Tom Callaghan, Vancouver Police Dept; Chief Walter A. McNeil, IACP President


On June 15th 2011, following the Vancouver Canucks’ loss in the final game of the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, over 150,000 people took to the streets of Vancouver, British Columbia. Many began to riot, destroying property, looting businesses, starting fires and assaulting those who got in their way. Hundreds engaged in criminal acts, while thousands more formed a sea of encouraging spectators, many recording the action on their handheld electronic devices. It took more than 900 police officers from around the region over three hours to quell the riot and return order to the city. In its wake, 112 business and 122 vehicles were damaged or destroyed, resulting in a loss of over $3.4 million.


In the days following, a 70-member Integrated Riot Investigation Team (IRIT) composed of representatives from eight police agencies was formed. A commitment was made to pursue and prosecute the rioters. With the help of a tip line that produced over 4,600 tips in the first week, information identifying rioters engaged in criminal activity mounted quickly. Eventually, over 5,000 hours of video in over 100 different formats was seized from the public, CCTV and the media. In order to efficiently process this amount of video evidence, the Vancouver Police Department requested and received assistance from the Law Enforcement and Emergency Services Video Association Lab in Indianapolis, IN. The video evidence was converted into one format, ensuring investigative integrity. The video was then reviewed and used to “tag” events and suspects using multiple unique, but standardized, searchable criteria to provide individualization. This enabled investigators to search for suspects in a way similar to an internet search engine. Fifty forensic analysts worked a combined 4,000+ hours on the case during the 14-day period.


Due to the complications involved in managing such a large case with hundreds of potential suspects, the Integrated Riot Investigation Information System (IRIIS) was developed and used to track different sources of information such as tasks, tips, videos, photographs, target details, file status and criminal charges. An interactive and secured riot website was created to identify rioters and update the public on the status of the investigation. This site became an important investigative tool in posting photos of rioters for identification. The strategy was to drive the public to the site and help identify suspects. Some techniques used to drive traffic to the website included

  • Strategic news releases with mainstream media used to maintain and rekindle public interest
  • A public outreach campaign utilizing QR codes
  • “Tweet the Chief,” a live-streamed video webcast on the internet hosted by Chief Chu, who answered questions about the riot from the public via Twitter and from a live studio audience 
  •  “Riot Roundup” posters featuring 200 pictures of unidentified rioters. One-hundred thousand posters were handed out over two days in 19 cities and over 75 locations across the region. Four hundred volunteers assisted with this distribution along with 75 police officers.


All of these efforts resulted in over 1.5 million visits to the secure website and an additional 7,633 tips!


This riot investigation is the largest criminal investigation of its type in Canadian history; the massive amount of forensic video collected, processed and managed was unparalleled. As of November 2012, the IRIT has recommended 592 criminal charges against 200 rioters, with expectations of charging over 300 rioters by the time the investigation concludes. Importantly, because of the investigative approach employed, each rioter was charged with the indictable offense of “participating in a riot”.


The IACP investigative operations committee commends the Integrated Riot Investigation Team for its innovative and revolutionizing approach to dealing with modern day investigations of this size.


First Runner Up: The Texas Border Security Operations Center (BSOC)


The Texas Border Security Operations Center


From left: Andy Russell, VP Fraud Prevention and Investigations, Thomson Reuters; San Diego Sector Assistant Chief Patrol Agent Sammie Anderson, U.S. Border Patrol; Captain Aaron Grigsby, Texas Rangers; Analyst Joel Aud, Texas Dept of Public Safety; Deputy Director David Barker, Texas Military Forces; Colonel Thomas Hamilton, Texas Dept of Public Safety; Analyst Karin Guest, Texas Military Forces; Master Sergeant Troy Weldon, Texas Military Forces; Ensign Frank Hooton, Texas Military Forces; Walter A. McNeil, IACP President


The Texas Border Security Operations Center (BSOC) is led by the Texas Rangers and has a contingent of representatives from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), Texas National Guard, Texas State Guard, DHS Office of Intelligence and Investigative Liaison and US Border Patrol Agents. Their purpose is to coordinate border security operations, including tactical operations and intelligence collection from the Texas/Mexico border. They conduct border security operations by leveraging several disciplines, such as intelligence collections and analysis, rapid intelligence dissemination with a focus on patrol-based operations, rural tactical mission support, and the use of technology as a force multiplier for rural border enforcement.


Driven by a necessity to conduct efficient and effective border control and surveillance, the Texas DPS began their extensive research toward meeting the need for a near-real time, event driven low cost and omnipresent, strategic solution that could span a very wide coverage area. With many issues surrounding Internet Protocol (IP) cameras, they were forced to look at developing an alternate surveillance system.


Beginning in 2009, a test phase camera array was implemented by the Texas DPS BSOC in select south Texas areas that were experiencing high undocumented alien and narcotics smuggling activity. Testing continued throughout 2010, as the cameras were found to be successful and highly cost effective. Combined with a Texas DPS internally developed software program, images from these cameras allowed concurrent overlap monitoring, vetting and notification alerting by multiple independent users. Any approved fusion center, the Texas BSOC, a Border Patrol station or Intelligence center could monitor the software for incoming images and participate in the alert/validation/dispatch process. This acted as a strong “force multiplier” for the US Border Patrol. The system developed now allows Fusion Centers and county sheriff’s dispatchers the ability to alert a Border Patrol station hundreds of miles away about criminal activity or border incursion while providing GPS coordinates and a photo of the activity. Memorandums of Understanding with Texas US Border Patrol sectors across the Texas/Mexico border were obtained and hundreds of these cost effective and highly efficient cameras were deployed. As of November 2012, over 1,000 apprehensions and 2,000 detections of human trafficking have been made. In addition, over 4 tons of narcotics have been seized with a street value in excess of 8 times the program costs.


The IACP Police Investigative Operations Committee commends the members of the Texas DPS Border Security Operations Center on their diligence in thinking outside the box and working to create a successful, strategic and sustainable approach to border security.


Second Runner Up - Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force


Minnesota Financial Crimes Task


From Left: Deputy Chief John Kirkwood, Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office; Andy Russell, VP Fraud Prevention and Investigations, Thomson Reuters; Commander Patrick Henry, Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force; Special Agent in Charge Lou Stephens, U.S. Secret Service; Superintendent Wade Setter, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension; Walter A. McNeil, IACP President.


The Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) Financial Crimes Task Force investigates crimes related to identity theft, with an emphasis on organized criminal enterprises. It is a multi-jurisdictional task force led by the BCA and comprised of personnel representing 11 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.


The Financial Crimes Task Force uncovered a massive identity theft, bank fraud, counterfeit check and credit card fraud ring of more than 200 participants operating in 11 states and including employees of nearly a dozen major financial institutions. Since the investigation began in 2009, investigators have found at least 8,700 identifiers for victims in numerous countries across the globe with a total estimated loss of over $100 million, including nearly $55 million in provable losses to financial institutions.


Investigators from the Task Force developed innovative methods to securely deliver sensitive non-public information on 8,700 victims to bank investigators in order to establish real versus fraudulent accounts. This necessitated negotiated cooperation of nearly a dozen major banks and required the banks to allow employees to continue to commit acts of fraud as the investigation continued. Investigators also developed methods for sharing case data between many contributing local, state and federal criminal justice agencies, each of which used disparate records management systems. The result was that the Task Force was able to develop a tiered chart of more than 200 potential subjects of the investigation. By 2011, the full scope of the crimes and the participants had been revealed. As of November 2012, 31 members of this organization have been convicted or pleaded guilty. The convicted ring leader was sentenced in the summer of 2012.


The IACP Police Investigative Operations Committee commends the members of the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task force for their diligence in developing a complicated joint prosecution and intelligence-sharing strategy; the referral of cases between state and federal agencies; and the management of a massive subject and victim list from across the globe.