A report looking into the high number of unfounded sexual assault files investigated by Kelowna RCMP has prompted the police to reopen 12 cases and review 29 others that were dismissed in 2018 and 2019.
The review of sexual assault cases was sparked by Statistics Canada data that showed nearly 40 per cent of sexual assault cases in 2018 in Kelowna were dismissed as unfounded compared to a provincial average of less than 15 per cent.
The report, released by the RCMP National Headquarters Sexual Assault Review Team (SART), found that 29 files were incorrectly scored by investigators who used the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) survey to determine whether the reported crime is founded or unfounded.
A dozen more were recommended for further investigation.
On top of cases being reopened and reviewed, a full review of the Kelowna RCMP detachment has been triggered by the report’s troubling findings.
“As part of the Kelowna RCMP’s ongoing quality assurance process a review of the Kelowna Detachment, specific to the quality of investigations and supervision, will also be conducted,” Cpl. Jocelyn Noseworthy, Kelowna RCMP spokesperson, said in a media release Thursday.
Officers who work at the Kelowna RCMP detachment will be further trained not only on document protocol, but on sexual consent law, trauma-informed practices and bias awareness, according to Cpl. Noseworthy.
“Since November, the detachment has engaged SART and representatives from RCMP National Headquarters Information and Technology Data Quality unit to ensure Kelowna is maintaining standards consistent with other policing agencies,” said the release.
“It is anticipated that the increased training and ongoing consultation will help increase the quality of sexual assault investigations and UCR scoring.”
Kelowna RCMP said it was already working on a “plan to remodel its General Investigation Unit to provide better support to frontline members and enhance overall policing service,” the release from the detachment stated, although information of the plan had not been publicly announced prior to Feb. 27.
“This month an eight person, plain clothes, General Investigation Support Team (GIST) will be created to work directly with frontline members. Four more members will augment this unit later this year,” Cpl. Noseworthy said.
Following the report’s release, Cpl. Noseworthy said the unfounded sexual assault rate in Kelowna is now in line with the provincial average, which means a change of nearly 25 per cent.
“The use of the wrong UCR codes was the most common issue identified during the review,” she said.
Cpl. Noseworthy defended the difficultly of investigating an alleged sexual assault.
“Sexual assault complaints can be extremely difficult and complicated investigations that cover a broad spectrum of offences,” she said.
“They are especially troubling crimes due to the personal and intimate nature of the offence.”
“Kelowna RCMP take all reports of sexual violence seriously and will thoroughly investigate any report brought forward.”
Global News has reached out to Kelowna RCMP for further comment.