Waterloo Regional Police to review unfounded sexual assault cases

Waterloo Regional Police are working on creating a task force that will help look at how sexual assault cases have been handled with the goal to improve their services for victims in the future.

Police are in early phases of creating task force made up of organizations that deal with sexual assault

Kelly Donovan, who was with WRPS for six and a half years, had the option to join constables Angelina Rivers and Sharon Zehr in a $167 million class action lawsuit when she left the force in June. Instead, she released a 93-page report on Monday highlighting how police officials handle internal investigations of their own members and looks at the lack of protection for whistleblowers across the country. (Chief of Police Bryan Larkin/Twitter)

The Waterloo Regional Police Service says it will review how officers have handled dozens of allegations sexual assault that were classified as "unfounded" with the goal of improving its services for victims in the future.

This comes after a story the Globe and Mail published in early February that showed on average, almost one in five sexual assault complaints are dismissed by police forces across the country.

According to the Globe's numbers, between 2010 and 2014, Waterloo Regional Police recorded  27 per cent of sexual assault complaints as unfounded, eight per cent higher than the national average.

"Immediately there was some concern about why over a quarter of all cases would be closed out as unfounded and so we've asked the chief to look into the matter and he has come up with a plan to move forward on it," regional councillor Tom Galloway, who is the chair of the Waterloo Region Police Service Board, told CBC's The Morning Edition on Tuesday.

"That includes looking at some past cases and are these truly unfounded or did unfounded become the default code for closing out these particular cases."

Creating a task force

Waterloo Regional Police Chief, Bryan Larkin and the board are in the early phases of putting together a task force, according to Galloway, who could not provide an exact number of cases that would be reviewed or a time period that would be examined. 

​The task force will be made up of several representatives from organizations that are at the forefront of the issue, according to Galloway, who not only deal with victims of sexual assault on a daily basis and as such are in a good position to advise the police on how to better handle sexual assault cases from a victim's perspective.

One of those organizations includes the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region where the organization's executive director, Sara Cassleman, was asked to participate.

"I was really encouraged that Waterloo region was so quick to say that they were going to be looking at their rates as well," she said.

"I think it's really important that the voices of survivors and the voices of those who have been impacted make the basis of the discussions that are happening."