Nfld. & Labrador

7 RNC officers now accused of sexually assaulting women while on duty, lawyer says

The RNC addressed sexual violence allegations Wednesday morning, as more accusations against its members continued to stream in.

9 women have now reported sex assault, 3 more allege officers asked for sex in patrol car

RNC Supt. Tom Warren said Wednesday morning the force has identified one former officer implicated in recent sexual assault allegations. Women continue to report sexual assault, according to lawyer Lynn Moore. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Seven Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers, one of them still a member of the force, are now facing sexual assault allegations, according to St. John's sexual abuse litigator Lynn Moore.

Moore said Wednesday afternoon that nine women have contacted her alleging sexual assault by RNC officers. 

Three other women have also reported that RNC officers asked them to engage in sexual activity while giving them a ride home.

Inappropriate workplace conduct has also been reported, she said, an alleged incident occurring in 2015.

All accusations so far occurred at least six years ago, said Moore, who added that some of the women do not know the identity of the accused officers.

Moore says she's early in the process of gathering details of the allegations. On Monday, she had heard allegations about one officer. The number of accused RNC members has risen over the course of the week.

RNC has ID'd one member

On Wednesday morning, the RNC said it had so far identified one of its former officers facing sex assault claims but legally can't disclose that officer's name. 

"The RNC has reached out to Ms. Moore in an attempt to identify the subject officers and further determine if the victims would provide a statement to the RNC," said Supt. Tom Warren, speaking to the media about the allegations Wednesday morning.

Moore says she did not release any names to the RNC, and Warren would not tell reporters how the force identified the accused.

Warren said the force has contacted SIRT-NL, the province's civilian-led oversight agency, to signal co-operation with any investigation they may lead, and has opened a disciplinary record review of the accused officer it has identified.

It's not clear whether that officer had been previously investigated internally or whether the RNC knew about any of this week's allegations.

Moore told CBC News on Tuesday that the women who had contacted her were not interested in speaking with police or engaging with the criminal justice system.

SIRT-NL — the Serious Incident Response Team of Newfoundland and Labrador — said in a statement Wednesday it has not received any complaints from the women who contacted Moore so far.

"SIRT-NL's intention is to respect and support any decisions the affected persons make as to whether to come forward and make a formal complaint," the statement said.

Moore is fielding calls from alleged victims of police sexual violence. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Warren read from a statement before taking questions from reporters on Wednesday morning.

"Victims have the power to report, the power to tell their story to a passionate professional, and the power to see that their abuser is held accountable for their actions," Warren stated. 

He later specified survivors can meet with RNC sexual assault specialists to learn about the criminal process and decide whether to proceed or make an anonymous report through CrimeStoppers.

"We are not going to move forward [with charges] unless we have the assistance of the victim," he said. "What's important is that these officers … are identified. It's important that we know who these officers are."

The force does not have the power to discipline retired officers, but it can open criminal investigations without a complaint. 

"These officers will be held accountable," Warren said.

Moore warned later on Wednesday that police and the Crown have a legal obligation to pursue charges in sexual assault cases, and may proceed to trial contrary to the wishes of the complainant.

Boland a witness

RNC Chief Joe Boland could not speak to media about the allegations because he is a witness, according to Warren.

"Two female victims have approached Chief Joe Boland with these allegations, and [Boland] has facilitated a process for the victims going forward," he said. 

Warren could not say when those alleged victims spoke to Boland.

RNC Chief Joe Boland did not speak to media about the allegations Wednesday. The force says he's a witness in some of the cases revealed this week. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

As reported by CBC News on Tuesday, people close to the force have described widespread sexual misconduct within the RNC. They said officers would habitually drive downtown targeting civilians to engage in sexual acts.

Warren said he was not aware of that type of behaviour being carried out by RNC members over the course of his career.

"It's not something I have been involved in or have knowledge of in my 30-plus years of service," he said, suggesting the allegations represent a small percentage of the force.

In the last five years, four criminal allegations of sexual assault were reported against RNC officers, according to Warren. No charges were laid in those cases, but one officer retired shortly after, Warren said. All four cases involved external agencies.

Warren said he is not aware of any internal investigations into sexual assault allegations that did not involve external agencies.

Take a photo of patrol car, Warren asks

Some of the accusations that surfaced this week mirror the case of Const. Doug Snelgrove, who was convicted of sexual assault in May. 

Snelgrove's crime came to light after the survivor reported the crime to RNC Const. Kelsey Muise, who relayed that report to superior officers. An internal investigation, led by RNC Sgt. Tim Hogan, uncovered sufficient evidence to lay charges. In that case, the Ontario Provincial Police were called in for oversight.

During those trials, it emerged that the RNC does not have a policy specifying that officers report who they transport in their patrol car.

"Some of these policies are dated, in terms of contact with females, in terms of transporting females home. That's not something we should be doing … so it does give us an opportunity to go back and review the policies," Warren said.

Any person approached by an RNC officer who offers them a ride home should report it to the force, he added. 

"Take a picture of our police vehicle. Our police vehicles are readily identifiable," he said. "And if a police officer for some reason is parked on George Street … for the sole purpose of offering persons a ride home, they're operating outside their authority."

Consent training is provided to officers, the superintendent said.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Janelle Kelly