RCMP review recommends more training around sexual assault

(File photo/CKLB)

Some RCMP officers need “additional training on consent, rape myths and levels of intoxication.”

Some officers also included personal opinions in police reports “when it was not relevant to the investigation.”

Despite these findings, the NT RCMP’s Sexual Assault Invetigations Review Committee (SAIRC) says overall police were doing a good job when it came to sexual assault investigations.

The committee is made up of representatives from RCMP, the Department of Justice, victim services organizations and community advocates.

The committee reviewed seven cases of sexual assault from different-sized communities that were categorized as unfounded, insufficient evidence to proceed, and/or where the victim/complaning declined to press proceed.

Jesse Aubin is NT RCMP’s family violence coordinator.

During a news conference last Thursday, CKLB asked Aubin whether finding issues in such a small sample size was indicative of a larger problem within RCMP.

“This is for improvement,” he said. “So if the committee does notice those systematic issues or gaps or barriers in our investigations, that’s definitely something that we would address.”

Louise Elder, executive director for the Status of Women Council, was one of the SAIRC participants.

She said it was too early for the committee to identify larger structural issues.

“But I have already thrown out to Jesse (Aubin) that I’m hoping we might get to that point in the future where we could look at, ‘Are there themes running through the cases that we are reviewing?’,” she added.

‘Constantly reviewing’ policies

Aubin said NT RCMP has mandatory training on bias, consent law, and common sexual assault myths. Officers also must take a course on trauma-informed approaches.

According to Aubin, new officers take the training when they transfer into the division.

“It’s something that we monitor quite closely to ensure that everyone is taking the appropriate training,” he said.

Asked whether the training was working, Aubin said, “We wouldn’t be hosting these committees, we wouldn’t be doing these reviews and asking advocates to come help us if were always perfect.”

Aubin also told media there was a conference with RCMP supervisors where he presented the committee’s findings “so that all of the supervisors who are reviewing sexual assault investigations got that that firsthand knowledge from the committee.”

The committee also recommended the RCMP work more closely with partners like Social Services, as well as parents/guardians when interviewing youth.

Asked whether RCMP would bring in any policies to address the findings, Aubin didn’t point to anything specific but said the force was “constantly reviewing our policies and trying to improve on them when we notice gaps.”

The goal is for SAIRC to conduct sexual assault investigation reviews twice a year and the RCMP will publish an annual report on the committee’s findings.

Elder said the review process was an “intense” experience considering the amount of information involved.

Some of the changes for the upcoming reviews include bringing in an advocate from a small community, shorter days and a slower pace to allow the committee to work through the reports in more detail.

The next review session will happen this month and another in the fall.

About the Author

Francis Tessier-Burns
Francis has been a general news reporter with CKLB since January 2019. Originally from rural Ontario, he first came to the NWT in 2016 as an intern with Up Here magazine and fell in love with the North. In his time with CKLB, he's had the immense pleasure and honour of learning about northern Indigenous cultures. Otherwise, you can find him hanging around the Legislative Assembly. If you have a story or want to chat, reach out to francis@cklbradio.com