North Bay police chief hopes new approach helps curb rash of unfounded sexual violence cases
StatsCan reports that number of 'unfounded' sexual assault cases has dropped
An investigation looking into unfounded sexual assault cases across Canada has led to change in the North Bay Police Service.
Last year, the Globe and Mail reported that North Bay had one of the worst sexual assault unfounded rates in the country at 44 per cent.
An unfounded sexual assault case is when police determine a crime was neither attempted or occurred.
But since then, the latest numbers from Statistics Canada show a drop in unfounded sexual assault cases in North Bay— down to 16 per cent.
North Bay Police Chief Shawn Devine told CBC's Up North that it took a serious change in perspective when police took a second look at the sexual violence cases.
"I didn't want it be a process where we were going through and saying 'this was justified' or saying 'this was unfounded,' or 'there was a mistake,'" Devine said.
"I wanted to get to the root cause of why people were coming in as victims of sexual violence and why we weren't proceeding to courts."
Devine said the service is currently focused on unfounded cases from 2017, and has assembled a non-traditional team to help comb through cases.
"We have a cross section of advocates, people that work in domestic violence, a representative from the university, and a representative from the Ojibwe women's centre looking at our cases to see if there's a root cause to why they're being classified as unfounded," Devine said.
"For thirty years, police work has been about collecting the facts," Devine said. "But we see there's a bigger picture, we have to understand that sometimes there's a huge history that goes along with [sexual violence cases], like has this person been victimized before, have they been selected before, or is it random?"
Ideally, Devine said, he would like to see more permanent changes in the critical first moments a victim steps forward.
"I think we need in our organization specific officers trained to deal with victims of trauma, victims of violence," Devine said.
"We also have to look at the idea of when a victim comes in, when they leave this police station, they feel like they are believed."
Click the audio link below to hear the interview with Chief Shawn Devine.
With files from Martha Dillman