British Columbia

Kelowna RCMP reinvestigating 12 sexual assault cases originally deemed 'unfounded'

A dozen sexual assault cases in Kelowna are being reinvestigated by the RCMP after they were originally deemed "unfounded," the detachment announced Thursday. 

A national team reviewed Kelowna's files after unusually high rate of rejected cases

Statistics Canada initially found that 40 per cent of sexual assault allegations in Kelowna were deemed "unfounded," but a national RCMP review concluded the rate is closer to the national average of 15 per cent. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

A dozen sexual assault cases in Kelowna, B.C., are being reinvestigated by the RCMP after they were originally deemed "unfounded," the detachment announced Thursday. 

A national RCMP Sexual Assault Review Team was tasked with looking over files from the Kelowna detachment after an unusually high rate of cases were being put aside as unfounded. 

Seventy cases of sexual assault were reported to the police in Kelowna in both 2017 and 2018 according to data from Statistics Canada. Forty per cent of those cases were dismissed as unfounded, three times the national average.

The statistics were released last November and immediately drew widespread criticism of the detachment.

The national team reviewed Kelowna's files to determine what was going wrong, focusing on how 30 files from 2018 and 36 files from 2019 were dealt with. 

Of those 66 sexual assault cases that were revisited, 12 have been flagged for further investigation. Those investigations have already begun, RCMP said. 

"Certainly those women deserve better and it is regrettable and unfortunate. I'm glad to see that the investigations will be reopened," said Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran. 

Data entry mistakes

In more than two dozen of the files, the wrong codes were used to classify the cases: 12 in 2018 and 17 in 2019. 

"This created a higher statistical average [of unfounded cases] than was expected," said Cpl. Jocelyn Noseworthy, spokesperson with Kelowna RCMP. 

The new numbers show the rate of unfounded sexual assault cases falls within the provincial average which hovers around 15 per cent, she said.

RCMP across the country use a system called Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) to document and classify crimes according to specific codes. That information is then shared with Statistics Canada. 

"Basically, it was an issue in training with some of the employees here in terms of how the UCR code was input," Noseworthy said. 

Staff are now being given extra training. 

"It is a concern why so many were scored incorrectly, absolutely," said Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran. 

"The findings of the investigations show that things could have been handled better."

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran says some of the cases could have been handled better, but lessons have been learned. (Colin Basran/Facebook)

In addition to extra training for staff, including trauma-informed practices and bias awareness, Kelowna RCMP is creating a dedicated sexual assault unit and expanding the general Investigation unit for better frontline support. 

"I hope that through this process, with the increased training and increased resources, that the service [victims] get will be better," Basran said. 

With files from Meera Bains and Brady Strachan