- Hub staff
"We still have concerns. We don't want to stop here." Owen Sound Police Chief Bill Sornberger was reporting to the Police Services Board on the internal review into the handling of 148 sexual assault claims from 2010 to 2014.
The review was prompted by a Globe and Mail feature which revealed that a Canada-wide average of almost one in five sexual assault cases end in an "unfounded" classification. Their information, obtained by a freedom of information request, showed 75 of148 cases reported to Owen Sound Police, 51%, had been coded "unfounded".
After the first internal review by Owen Sound Police, of the 148 cases 51, slightly less than 35%, remain in the unfounded category. Senior officers who had not been involved in the cases completed the review.
Of the 51 unfounded cases , 16 investigations were terminated by the victim. The Chief has a meeting today with Violence Prevention Grey Bruce – a group made up of over 30 member organizations from the local justice, corrections, child welfare, violence against women, education and social service sectors - and he said these cases will be a particular focus for him.
"Any victim of any crime should feel comfortable coming to Owen Sound Police," said Chief Sornberger. "Victims should have full support and the confidence that they have full support."
While the Chief reported that policy was followed, he said the police needed the help of their community partners – those involved with women who have experienced violence - to look at the current investigative policies and the statement process. "Just as no two people are the same, no two incidents or allegations are the same. We cannot meet victims with our logic – their experience is their own."
The Chief will also be seeking input on how to reduce the stigma of reporting a sexual assault, and Owen Sound Police have applied for a grant for further training with community partners on working with victims.
23% of the 51 "unfounded" cases from 2010 to 2014 were allegations that were later retracted, and the remaining 46% (23 reports) included incidents that did not fit the charge, acts found to be consensual or where no sexual act occurred, or unsubstantiated claims. When asked why Owen Sound could be so different in outcome, Sornberger said that while percentages could be misleading when numbers are relatively small, stated simply - "We don't know."
A report on the review of cases from 2014 to 2016 will be presented to the June meeting of the Police Services Board, and a report on changes in process will be made to the November meeting.
All Police Services Board meetings are open to the public and details are on their website. The current members of the Owen Sound Police Services Board are Garth Pierce (Chair), Ian Boddy, Brian O'Leary and Bill Twaddle, and Rick Beaney is waiting to fill the fifth position by Order in Council of the Ontario Attorney General.