The Saanich Police Department is launching a new unit dedicated to investigating sexual offences.
The special investigations section’s (SIS) primary responsibility will be to investigate all current and historical sexual offences against all persons, Saanich police said in a Monday (Nov. 14) statement.
The department said the investigators will receive specialized training to investigate allegations and ensure survivors are cared for with the best trauma-informed practices.
The formation of the specialized unit comes more than a year after a Saanich News investigation into how the department mishandled a sexual assault survivor’s report. The Saanich Police Board eventually apologized in response to the article.
That story, Police missteps leave Greater Victoria sexual assault survivor without justice, detailed how officers misrecorded part of a 2016 interview with the survivor – identified as Chelsea – and took steps that made incriminating aspects of the accused’s interview inadmissible in court.
Officers ultimately chose not to recommend charges against the accused and incorrectly classified Chelsea’s report as “unfounded,” a label exposed by a 20-month Globe and Mail investigation as proof of police bias and mishandling of sexual assault reports in Canada.
Chelsea also said the officers investigating her file made multiple degrading comments about her experience.
When Chelsea returned to the police in 2020 to complain about their handling of her report, the officer she spoke with acknowledged their mistakes and agreed she was in fact a survivor of sexual assault. Her file was changed to “founded, but not charged.”
In Monday’s statement, Saanich Police Department Chief Dean Duthie said the SIS demonstrates the department’s commitment to “continuous improvement, service and investigative excellence, and survivor support, care, and wellbeing.”
“This highly experienced team of investigators will ensure that survivors of sexual offences are supported and kept informed throughout the entire investigative process,” he said.
SPD said the Saanich Police Board and the district’s council also supported the special investigations section initiative.
The SIS team will consist of two sergeants and seven constables. It’s been assembled by reallocating existing resources and restructuring other sections within the police department, plus the addition of one new officer due to an increase in staffing levels from the 2022 budget.
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