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Police to review practices, grant survivors power in draft sex assault policy

The London Police Services Board (LPSB) has released its draft sexual assault investigation policy and is seeking feedback before making it official.

The board will be accepting feedback from the public until Dec. 10

The policy would give power to survivors to identify whether they want their accused named publicly. (Colin Butler/CBC)

The London Police Services Board (LPSB) released its draft sexual assault investigation policy Thursday and is now seeking feedback before making it official.

The police service announced its intention to expand its review into how it investigates sexual assault cases in January, following criticism it was classifying too many as 'unfounded.'

"The policy is really about being centred on that survivor and their experience, and being sensitive to their choices," said board member Dr. Javeed Sukhera.

"It's specifically codified that the service should be engaging with the community and reviewing cases to ensure that the approach to sexual assault investigation is consistent and accountable to those principles," he added.

Survivors a focus

The draft policy says the chief of police will "develop and maintain trauma-informed and victim-centered approaches in addressing sex assaults," by reviewing the role of supervisors, decisions to lay charges and methods of dispatch.

The policy would also give power to survivors to identify whether they want their accused named publicly.

Dr. Javeed Sukhera sits on the London Police board. (Colin Butler/CBC)

"I think it validates all of the conversation we've been having as a city, as a country, since Unfounded over the last year and I think it at least gives some sense of hope to the survivors that there are some changes happening," said AnnaLise Trudell, Anova's manager of education training and research.

The policy says police training should consider topics such as consent, gender bias and rape myths around sexual assault. It should also cover the intersectionality of sexual violence in vulnerable and marginalized communities.

It would strike a Sexual Assault Advisory Committee comprised of community-based stakeholders, police and other service providers. A victim advocate case review system would also be established, with the help of community partners, to ensure police are using best practices to classify sex assault cases.  

"It's a pretty big shift," said Trudell, who said she thinks the number of survivors reporting sex assaults to police won't change immediately.

"I think that takes lots of time and effort and a much broader look at the whole system to get confidence built back into it," she said.

The policy would be updated every 5 years to remain up to date.

The board is seeking feedback on the policy through Monday Dec. 10 via lpsb@londonpolice.ca.