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Kelowna Mounties vow to do better when dealing with victims of sexual violence

Kelowna RCMP Kara Triance. Global News

In the wake of another complaint that a Kelowna Mountie failed to properly investigate a complaint of sexual violence, the city’s top cop offered both apologies and insight into how the detachment is now working to solve some long-standing issues.

“I have very high expectations of my police officers when it comes to professionalism, respect, accountability, and how we deliver our police services,” Supt. Kara Triance said in a media release on Tuesday.

“As Kelowna’s commander, I am deeply apologetic that our initial response to this incident was not in line with our investigative standards, nor was it a trauma-informed approach to sexual violence.”

READ MORE: High number of dismissed sexual assault cases in Kelowna sparks protest

Triance’s public comment was spurred by the RCMP Civilian Review and Complaints Commission finding that a Kelowna Mountie failed to appropriately investigate a rape complaint made in May 2020.

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According to the commission, the woman was told by the now retired officer, her story was confusing and it wouldn’t hold up in court. The Contable also told the woman that because she and the man dated after the incident, the assault didn’t count and because she didn’t scream “no” or call the police, it wasn’t an assault.

Despite the woman’s insistence that she wanted to press charges the commission found that the officer in charge of the case  wrote on the file that she did not.

Ultimately, the victim’s allegations that the officer neglected duty and had an improper attitude were supported by the commission.

“Going forward we continue to invest in our officers, our supervisors, in training, and in processes of accountability and review. We are committed to working with partners who support survivors of violence to ensure a trauma-informed response and police accountability,” Triance said.

“We are working to ensure that our response to crime centres around persons — knowing that if we can change the trajectory of a person’s life, impacted by violent crime, in how we respond and how we provide police services, we can have improved outcomes in the long term for those individuals impacted by trauma and for our society as a whole.”

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The Kelowna RCMP has since assigned a sex crimes investigator to the woman’s file and a charge of sexual assault was recommended to the B.C. Prosecution Service.

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Triance said since this incident, the Kelowna detachment has taken many steps to do better, such as designing strategic priorities with a victim-centred approach.

READ MORE: B.C. RCMP head says ‘fulsome review’ underway into 2012 interrogation of sex assault victim

Triance also said the detachment now has an equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) committee, and that police are building partnerships with School District 23 with community youth safety officers (CYSOs).

“We have been meeting with (UBC Okanagan university) throughout the summer and are in the process of forming a working group comprised of CYSOs and members of the EDI committee who have indicated their interest,” said Triance. “Focus will be on EDI principles and rebuilding relationships, particularly with foreign students.”

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Protest against high number of sexual assault cases dismissed by Kelowna RCMP – Nov 24, 2019

Police have met with Okanagan College representatives, said Triance, who have expressed interest in having Kelowna RCMP members attend on-campus events and partner in work and education to focus on safety and crime prevention.

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Kelowna’s top cop stated that they’ve also been liaising with Spanish-speaking migrant workers and are looking forward to developing closer ties with other temporary foreign worker communities.

READ MORE: RCMP respond to outrage over sexual assault complainant asked if she was ‘turned on’

“We continue the ongoing quality of investigations through quality assurance. Proper training has been provided to police officers and support staff to ensure the proper categorization of files to capture statistical data correctly,” Triance said. “We are also ensuring better supervision on more complex investigations, normally handled by front-line investigators with oversight by our Sex Crimes Unit.”

The Kelowna RCMP Sex Crimes Unit and the Domestic Violence Unit are comprised of investigators who specialize in this field. These investigations have direct links to prevention and trauma support with the Central Okanagan Elizabeth Fry Society, as well as applicable provincial ministries.

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While the RCMP said there have been changes, the detachment’s record when it comes to sex assaults is well documented.

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In November of 2019, the country focused on Kelowna following news that the city had a very high unfounded rate.

According to Statistics Canada data, 35 (nearly 40 per cent) of the sexual assault cases that were reported to Kelowna RCMP in the previous year were dismissed as unfounded.

Vernon officers dismissed eight cases, nearly a quarter of all reported, while Penticton RCMP said 11 incidents were unfounded, which is about 38 per cent.

Those numbers were far higher than the provincial average of less than 15 per cent.

READ MORE: MPs slam RCMP for asking Indigenous teen reporting sex assault if she was ‘turned on by this at all’

By February 2020, a report looking into the high number of unfounded sexual assault files was investigated by Kelowna RCMP.

The report, released by the RCMP’s 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.

That report prompted the police to reopen 12 cases and review 29 others that were dismissed in 2018 and 2019.

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At that time, RCMP said officers who work at the detachment will be further trained not only on document protocol, but on sexual consent law, trauma-informed practices and bias awareness.

READ MORE: ‘It’s appalling’: Women’s advocates outraged Kelowna RCMP dismissed nearly 40% of sex assault complaints last year

“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,”  Cpl. Jocelyn Noseworthy said at the time.

“It is anticipated that the increased training and ongoing consultation will help increase the quality of sexual assault investigations and UCR scoring.”

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