Squamish RCMP asks local council to fund dedicated sex assault officer

The Squamish RCMP are pitching the idea of a dedicated officer to deal with domestic violence and sexual assault cases in the district.

Detachment says dedicated officer could serve as an important community liaison

The Squamish RCMP detachment is asking for funds to support an officer dedicated to investigating sexual assault and domestic violence cases. (CBC)

The Squamish RCMP is asking the District of Squamish for funding to support an extra officer dedicated to investigating domestic violence and sexual assault cases.

Staff Sgt. Jolaine Percival says it would be beneficial to have a specific person assigned to what are often high-risk cases.

"Having an investigator that would be able to hone their skills on doing these complex investigations and also knowing the contacts that they would be able to reach out to — to get the victims additional support and help would be crucial," Percival said.

Underreporting an issue

Domestic violence and sexual assault cases are also difficult because they are generally underreported by the victims, she said.

"We know that not everybody reports sex assaults, not everybody reports domestic violence but if that word of mouth in having a specific domestic violence or sexual assault investigator gets out, and there's comfort in the victims out there, well maybe they'll come forward."

Although police say Squamish doesn't have a higher proportion of domestic violence or sexual assault, some advocates say the Sea-to-Sky corridor is underserved when it comes to accessible sexual assault services.

Megan Reynolds, executive director with Howe Sound Women's Centre Society, says the society is supportive of the request to add a dedicated police officer.

"This position will increase our community capacity to investigate these crimes, provide the appropriate supports to survivors, and collaborate on effective intervention and prevention strategies," Reynolds said.

Cost a factor

Other RCMP detachments in larger urban centres commonly have dedicated domestic violence units, but the primary barrier for the Squamish detachment is cost for the position, which amounts to $167,247 for 2018 but would decrease in subsequent years. 

The detachment presented its case at a budget related council meeting on Dec. 12.

Many councillors were supportive of the request but some, including Mayor Patricia Heintzman, did raise questions about how the detachment would make sure the new officer would be solely focused on domestic violence and sexual assault cases.

In a statement, the mayor said the district is currently considering all proposals and requests for the 2018 budget.

"As our community continues to grow rapidly, we are being presented with various new positions that are all important and would serve our citizens well. We need to make decisions in a strategic way, balancing various considerations," Heintzman said.

A decision by council is expected by February.