Some NWT RCMP officers investigating sexual assaults need more training “on consent, rape myths and levels of intoxication,” a committee reviewing sexual assault cases in the territory has found.
The findings were published by RCMP in the territory on Tuesday on a webpage summarizing the results of meetings of the Sexual Assault Investigations Review Committee in 2019 and 2020. Committee members include representatives of the RCMP, NWT Department of Justice, victim services groups, and victim or community advocates.
The committee examined sexual assault investigations selected at random from seven NWT communities and where the file had been marked either Insufficient Evidence to Proceed, Unfounded, or Victim/Complainant Declines to Proceed.
“Overall the committee found NT RCMP investigations thorough, timely and conducted in a trauma-informed manner,” RCMP stated, summarizing the committee’s conclusions. (The full findings have not been made public.)
The committee “generally found that investigators were victim-centred, taking the needs and wishes of those involved into account … took victims seriously and treated them with respect,” RCMP continued.
However, there were criticisms.
In particular, the committee concluded that some police reports in the files “contained the police officer’s personal opinion when it was not relevant to the investigation.”
RCMP said the committee “advised that personal opinions can show a lack of understanding of rape myths and consent law [and that] some investigators require additional training on consent, rape myths and levels of intoxication.”
No further detail regarding the relevant content of those police reports was provided.
RCMP said other committee findings included a lack of “complete documentation and context” in at least some investigations, such as whether witnesses or suspects had been spoken to. Investigators were told to explain their process more thoroughly to victims, and the committee said victims should “be given the opportunity to provide statements to an officer in the gender of their choice.”
In addition, the committee told RCMP that officers working with youth should consult parents or guardians and social services, and should seek support from other RCMP units with “expertise in conducting child interviews to ensure best practices are followed.”
RCMP said detachment supervisors for each of the files reviewed had been “advised of the committee’s findings with the goal of improving investigations.”
The committee will next meet to review more cases in April, with a further meeting planned in the fall.