A complaint lodged at the Saanich Police Department’s sexual assault investigation process has prompted calls for a provincial standard.
The Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner of B.C.’s (OPCC) 2019/2020 annual report includes details from a January 2019 complaint that arose from a year-long sexual assault investigation.
The complainant said that the investigating officer had made comments and asked questions that made her feel “devalued” and “disrespected.” The officer asked her about alcohol and medication consumption, she said, and asked whether she had stayed in a park to avoid a “walk of shame.”
The complainant also said she was denied assistance from a support person during her second meeting with the officer.
The Saanich Police Board requested the Vancouver Police Department review the Saanich departments’ policies related to sexual assault offences.
The OPCC report says Saanich policies shifted as a result of that review, including a mandate that supervisors are made aware of all sexual assault investigations, designate appropriate resources and expertise and ensure appropriate rationale and evidence are documented in cases where officers don’t recommend charges.
Now Saanich investigations involving a sexual offence will be reviewed and monitored by a supervisor in the detective division, the OPCC says. The report also says the department created a policy regarding trauma-informed practices and will require training in that area for all current and future Saanich police officers.
The incident also spurred a call for province-wide sexual assault investigation standards. That recommendation, from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, calls for a “pan-justice, pan-provincial, multi-disciplinary approach.” The ministry also recommended “comprehensive preventative education and outreach.”
“The issues identified in this matter are not isolated to this one occurrence and department,” the OPCC writes. “The OPCC has also seen clear incidences of the persistent application of sexual assault myths and discriminatory attitudes based on gender identity.”
The Director of Police Services will begin developing provincial policing standards in the area of sexual assault investigations, the OPCC reports.
The 2019 complaint is not the Saanich department’s first when it comes to officer conduct during a sexual assault investigation.
In 2019 the OPCC annual report included an incident where a Saanich police officer received a 20-day suspension for counselling a complainant not to formally report a sexual assault.
The OPPC annual report overviews misconduct involving municipal police officers across B.C., detailing substantiated allegations and the disciplinary measures recommended. For the 2019/2020 review, the OPCC opened 83 files into the Saanich Police Department, 187 into the Victoria Police Department, 17 into Central Saanich and nine into Oak Bay.
There were 29 complaints lodged against the Saanich Police Department – nine were deemed admissible by the OPCC and six investigations were ordered.