An Abbotsford Police officer’s conduct during a sexual assault investigation has led to recommendations that the department review its policies and procedures around such matters.
The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) touches on the issue in its annual report, released Tuesday (Nov. 22) for the period from April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022.
The report states that the OPCC received a complaint about an APD sexual assault investigation in which the female complainant alleged “inappropriate questioning based on stereotypes about sexual assault and a lack of trauma-informed approach.”
An investigation was conducted and concluded that the officer did not commit any misconduct.
“However, it was determined that the APD did not have sufficient policy governing sexual assault investigations or other policies relating to trauma-informed interviewing or practices,” the OPCC report states.
“The investigation also revealed that the officer had not received training in, or was familiar with, trauma-informed practices.”
The OPCC noted that research demonstrates officers “must take the impact of trauma into consideration as they conduct interviews, examine and analyze the evidence, and interact with sexual assault survivors.”
The OPCC issued recommendations to the police board, including that the APD review its policies, procedures and training related to sexual assault investigations.
The agency also suggested that the APD consider incorporating trauma-informed training for all personnel.
The APD is now in the process of drafting guidelines for sexual assault investigations, including written policies and procedures, according to the annual report.
As well, officers have been directed to complete mandatory training in investigations involving intimate partner violence, and the APD will begin training in trauma-informed practice in 2023.
The OPCC said it will continue to monitor the situation.
Also mentioned in the report were two incidents involving APD officers that resulted in disciplinary measures.
In one, an officer was handed a 75-day unpaid suspension for assaulting his estranged wife, placing a GPS tracker on her vehicle, following her, subjecting her to unwanted communication, identifying himself as a police officer to access security video, and accessing a police database for non-duty-related reasons in relation to his spouse.
The officer was also charged criminally, and pleaded guilty to, assault.
In the other incident mentioned in the report, an APD officer was given a five-day suspension related to a break-and-enter investigation.
A man who worked nearby came upon the officers, who aimed their guns at him. The man shot video of the incident and, after he was handcuffed, one of the officers deleted the video.
The APD discipline authority determined that accessing a person’s cellphone can be a violation of their privacy, and deleting any videos or information is “unacceptable behaviour.”
The OPCC annual report details disciplinary or corrective measures that were taken against officers in Abbotsford, Delta, Vancouver, New Westminster, Saanich and other areas that have municipal police departments in B.C.
The officers’ names are not released.
The OPCC opened a total of 1,528 files in the period covered in the latest report.
Of those, 202 were opened in Abbotsford. Three were ordered to be investigated by APD request and one was a “serious harm” investigation.
The OPCC does not lay criminal charges, but looks for infractions under the Police Act. Officers deemed to have committed wrongdoing face disciplinary measures ranging from a written reprimand to a suspension or firing.
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