Changes follow national investigation by Globe and Mail
By Jillian McMullen, Staff Writer
On January 26, the New Westminster Police Department (NWPD) announced they would be reforming the way they handle sexual assault cases. This was prompted by the February 2017 Globe and Mail investigative series “Unfounded”, which discovered they dismissed 27 per cent rate of sexual assault allegations.
Almost a year after the release of “Unfounded”, the NWPD has announced a new unit dedicated to investigating sexual assault cases, according to a press release from the NWPD.
Sgt. Jeff Scott, media relations officer for the NWPD, said the police department conducted an internal review of their sexual assault procedures following “Unfounded.”
“The result was the creation of a Specialized Investigations Unit, and we are happy to share this announcement with the community,” he said in the release.
This new task force will adopt the same model used for domestic violence cases, which pairs specially trained investigating officers with community counsellors. The NWPD said this will provide the best service possible for survivors.
“This model ensures timely access to support for the victim that continues from the time of reporting the crime through to the end of the criminal process and beyond if required,” stated the release.
Det. Judy Robertson, a detective in the Special Investigations Unit, said sexual assault is one of the most personal forms a trauma a survivor can experience.
“We are hopeful that a dedicated unit offering a victim-centered approach will be a step in the right direction,” she said in the press release.
The NWPD, along with other members of the BC Association of Municipal Chiefs of Police (BCAMCP), had previously declined to complete an 18-question survey provided to them by The Globe and Mail, which aimed at determining the steps being taken in light of the series findings. The president of BCAMCP and chief of the Delta Police Department, Neil Dubord, wrote in an August 2017 letter to the paper that the member departments were instead independently reviewing previous cases classified as “unfounded” as well as their policies for cases moving forward.
The letter, which is available on the Globe and Mail website, says that the BCAMCP had noticed inconsistencies in how allegations were dealt with. It states that this explains how cases were investigated.
“These issues relate to whether or not the offence should be classified as a sexual assault in the first place, how the thoroughness of the associated investigations are documented and, finally, how the results of the investigation are coded,” Dubord wrote in the letter.
Those wishing to contact the NWPD’s Special Investigations Unit, who provide assistance to all gender identities, can call 604-525-5411.