B.C. RCMP head says ‘fulsome review’ underway into 2012 interrogation of sex assault victim
WARNING: This story contains graphic details that may disturb some readers.
The commanding officer of the B.C. RCMP says a “fulsome review” is underway into a 2012 interrogation that sparked outrage over an officer’s treatment of an Indigenous youth.
The interrogation, which was captured on surveillance video that was obtained by APTN and Global News last month, shows the interrogating West Kelowna RCMP officer asking whether the 17-year-old was “turned on” by an alleged sexual assault.
In a statement released Saturday, Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Strachan said the RCMP has reached out to various individuals and agencies that have expressed concerns about the video, which have so far included everyone from members of the federal and provincial governments to First Nations and sexual assault victims’ advocates.
WATCH: (Aired May 15) Questions over 2012 RCMP interrogation of Indigenous teen
She also defended the force’s limited comments on the case, which have been restricted under the Youth Criminal Justice Act and Federal Privacy Act, along with an ongoing Criminal Code investigation and civil litigation proceedings.
“I wanted to address that our inability to provide further context or perspective does not mean we have not heard the concerns,” Strachan said.
“We agree that on the surface this case doesn’t appear to align with public expectations or the current standards and practices in place when addressing sex assault investigations and supporting victims. We also recognize that a negative experience with police investigators can bring more trauma to victims, and discourage others from reporting these crimes.”
The teen, who was in the custody of the B.C. child welfare system at the time of the alleged incident, had reported she had been sexually assaulted by an acquaintance in March 2012.
In one portion of the two-hour interrogation obtained by Global News, the officer can be heard asking the teen, “Were you at all turned on during this at all, even a little bit?”
WATCH: (WARNING: Disturbing content) Video of the 2012 interrogation of a B.C. Indigenous teen
In another exchange, the officer asks the girl how the alleged incident compared to other sexual experiences she has had in the past.
“OK and how does that compare to experiences you’ve had in the past sexually?” he asks.
The alleged rapist in the case was never charged.
Canada’s Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has called the video “absolutely abhorrent,” while B.C.’s Minister of Children and Family Development Katrine Conroy called it “heart-wrenching” and “appalling.”
Strachan’s statement marks the first comments from RCMP on the case since May 16, when a spokesperson said the force’s handling of such cases is a “work in progress,” but declined to provide further context into the officer’s line of questioning.
The force also highlighted its current work updating its training of officers when it comes to interrogation of witnesses and victims, sexual assault investigations, and trauma.
Strachan pointed to the same work, while repeating the updates to training is being developed “with subject matter experts in psychology, advocacy, and sexual assault investigations.”
Establishing a Philadelphia Model
The deputy commissioner also confirmed the RCMP is establishing a Canada-wide external review model similar to the Philadelphia Model to review sexual assault cases.
The Philadelphia Model was developed in 2000 and allows advocates and victims to go through the police force’s sexual assault files on a regular basis to find deficiencies and loose ends.
Strachan said national guidelines are being developed in adherence with the Privacy Act to determine the scope of each provincial committee overseeing the model, including the mandate, terms of reference, structure and procedures.
More information is set to be released on the external review model in the coming months, Strachan said.
“The RCMP is committed to improving how its employees respond to victims of all crimes, and investigate allegations of sexual assault,” she said.
WATCH: (Aired May 6) Pilot project aims to change how sexual assault cases are reviewed in Regina
Angela Marie MacDougall, executive director of Battered Women’s Support Services, said there is “absolutely no evidence” the Philadelphia Model could work for a national police force the way it might for a municipal one.
She pointed to the disparities in training and service contracts between rural and urban centres where the RCMP operate as proof it would be hard to implement on that scale.
“The RCMP also has zero record of ever wanting to be held accountable by a community, which is baked into the Philadelphia Model,” she said.
MacDougall said Strachan’s statement may be a good public relations move, but it doesn’t address the real issues within the RCMP.
“This is one more example of the ways in which the RCMP is missing the boat when it comes to sexual assault and supporting survivors,” she said.
“This is a problem within the RCMP all across Canada, and it’s only because this video came to light that we as a public can analyze this.”
—With files from Global’s Kristen Robinson, Sarah MacDonald, Hannah Jackson, Amanda Connolly and the Canadian Press
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