In wake of sexual abuse allegations, PCs call for independent review of the RNC
'If it is a systemic issue, we want to investigate and find out,' says Justice Minister John Hogan
Following allegations of sexual assault against Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers, the leader of the provincial opposition says the provincial government must call an independent review of the police force.
On Thursday lawyer Lynn Moore told CBC News 12 women have alleged sexual assault by seven RNC officers. Three more women allege RNC officers asked for sex in their patrol cars.
Brazil told reporters on Thursday he wants to see an independent review of the RNC and is calling on Justice Minister John Hogan to call one immediately.
"The minister has the ability, but more importantly the responsibility, to step in here and ensure that if this a culture for some reason by a certain number of officers, or if it's a policy-related process of not having the right safeguards in play, then that has to be dealt with," Brazil said.
Hogan said the Department of Justice is considering conducting a workplace review of the RNC, to study the organization's culture. He said the department is discussing what the review would entail look, and who would handle the investigation and when it would happen hasn't been determined.
"Like everyone in the public, and I'm sure a lot of officers as well, it's very troubling and it's very difficult to hear," Hogan said on Thursday.
"To hear stories like this it's obviously something that we're taking very seriously and I'm sure this story is not going to end today."
Hogan said there are "several different ways" to handle the allegations against RNC officers before reaching the point of a public inquiry.
He said it's up to survivors on how they want to move forward with complaints, including filing a civil complaint, criminal complaint, filing a complaint with the province's civilian-led oversight agency, or with the RNC's public complaints commission.
"We don't want to say we're going to call a public inquiry and compel these individuals to come forward and tell their stories when they may not want to," said Hogan.
"We do need to give them a little bit of time with their lawyer to talk about how they want to move forward with that."
Without complaints, Hogan said, it will be difficult to launch an independent investigation outside a workplace review, which would only examine the police side of things.
"If it is a systemic issue, we want to investigate and find out. It's not something we want to let continue, obviously," Hogan said.
New chief of police
On Wednesday RNC Supt. Tom Warren said the police force had identified one of its former officers facing allegations of sexual assault, but couldn't legally disclose the officer's name.
He said the police force has contacted the Serious Incident Response Team of Newfoundland and Labrador SIRT-NL to offer co-operation with any investigation, and has opened a disciplinary record review of the officer.
RNC Chief Joe Boland cannot comment on the allegations because he is a witness, according to Warren.
Boland is set to retire on July 30, but Hogan said there will be a replacement in place by then. Whatever action is taken on the allegations may fall to Boland's successor.
"We're not going to have an RNC without a chief," Hogan said.
"There will be someone in place when Chief Boland is gone to take control of the RNC. There will be an announcement before [next] Friday."
With files from Mark Quinn