A Portage la Prairie, Man., RCMP constable took a complaint from a woman who was choked, beaten, stripped, and pushed out of a house naked by her boyfriend, but didn’t interview any witnesses and tried to convince her not to lay charges.
Const. Allan Poapst “did nothing to assist her or bring her attacker to justice,” according to disciplinary hearing documents obtained by CBC News.
Poapst got a reprimand and was docked three days of pay, which an RCMP adjudication board states “adequately reflects society’s intolerance for the conduct.”
'It is outrageous that an RCMP officer would not follow through on an investigation of a sexual assault on a woman.' - Darryl Davies, Carleton University criminology professor
Critics call the officer’s conduct outrageous, and say the RCMP’s response does not adequately reflect the seriousness of the situation.
The incident occurred in 2010, but a written decision on the case didn’t come until 2013. Internal RCMP discipline cases are not routinely made public, but CBC News asked for and received some recent Manitoba-based decisions.
“It is outrageous that an RCMP officer would not follow through on an investigation of a sexual assault on a woman,” says Darryl Davies, a Carleton University criminology professor. He is also troubled by the RCMP’s adjudication board comment that a reprimand and docking of three days’ pay reflects society’s attitudes.
“It basically says that the RCMP do not take matters of sexual assault seriously,” said Davies.
Kim Storeshaw, director of family violence services at Nor-West Co-op Community Health, echoed Davies's sentiment.
“It’s very disturbing,” said Storeshaw.
Hard for victims to call police: Storeshaw
According to Storeshaw's clients, who are women leaving violent situations, the treatment from police experienced by the woman in this case is not uncommon.
“They've been told to go get a protection order,” she said. “You leave the house, we'll warn him, even when there's physical evidence that an assault has taken place.”
She said women can feel revictimized when charges aren’t laid and they usually will not phone police the next time they are attacked.
'The only way to change behaviour is to hold people accountable for their actions.' - Darryl Davies, Carleton University criminology professor
“It’s very difficult to get the courage to phone police,” she said.
Poapst testified the woman did not want to provide a statement and that he “was not aware of the requirements in relation to domestic violence investigations.”
The RCMP adjudication board rejected that, saying Poapst would have known RCMP policy on domestic violence, which states, in part, “A charge will be laid when reasonable and probable grounds exist, irrespective of the willingness of the victim to give evidence.”
Another officer from the same detachment later laid charges relating to the incident.
Storeshaw said she wants police to press charges more often, and they should do so whether or not a woman wants to co-operate.
“That takes away the blame from the woman … the guilt that she feels later on as she’s going through the cycle of violence,” said Storeshaw.
'Personally, I think a suspension would be in order' - Kim Storeshaw, director of family violence services at Nor-West Co-op Community Health
The victim in question said she wanted her then boyfriend charged, but Poapst convinced her that pursuing a peace bond “was a better alternative to criminal proceedings.”
Storeshaw said a protection order is difficult to get, but even if successful, an aggressor can appeal it and the process can be traumatizing.
“She has to hire her own lawyer to defend it,” said Storeshaw. “It can take years.”
Injuries of victim downplayed, says report
The report alleges Poapst tried to conclude the file by indicating in his police report that the woman “did not want to provide a statement to police, which was in fact, not the case.”
He also downplayed the seriousness of her injuries in subsequent statements, saying “he was not satisfied that she had, in fact, been assaulted.”
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“Personally, I think a suspension would be in order,” said Storeshaw.
Davies called the punishment that Poapst received “meaningless.”
“The punishments in and of themselves do nothing,” said Davies. “The only way to change behaviour is to hold people accountable for their actions.”
Poapst has already changed the way he handles these types of complaints, according to the report.
Poapst declined to be interview by CBC News and the RCMP will not discuss specific discipline cases.
RCMP “D” Division Operational Manual, chapter 2.4.: Violence in Relationships Policy (excerpt)
1.2 Spouse/Partner Abuse
- 1.2.1. This is defined as violence or threats of violence, or other acts of a criminal nature which may include physical, sexual, emotional, psychological abuse committed against a person by that person’s spouse, boyfriend,girlfriend, or other intimate partner, past or present. All relationships are included, regardless of gender.
- 126.96.36.199. physical abuse can be a push, shove, slap irrespective of visual signs of injuries.
- 1.2.2. Members have the responsibility and duty to conduct a thorough investigation with a positive view of collecting evidence to secure a conviction. this is obtained by:
- 188.8.131.52. statements from victims and witnesses immediately or soon as practical thereafter. Members should consider the use of a video/audio tapped (sic) statement
- 184.108.40.206. securing physical and medical data.
- 1.2.3. Members will treat spouse/partner abuse calls as a priority. All members will investigate complaints involving spousal/partner abuse in accordance with the Justice Manitoba protocol on domestic violence.
- 1.2.6. A charge will be laid when reasonable and probably grounds (sic) exist, irrespective of the willingness of the victim to give evidence.
- 220.127.116.11. Probability of conviction issues are the responsibility of the Crown.