The Saanich Police Department is launching a new unit dedicated to investigating sex crimes.
Saanich police said in a statement on Monday (November 14) that the primary responsibility of the Special Investigations Unit (SIS) is to investigate all current and historical sexual crimes against all people.
Investigators will receive specialized training to investigate allegations and ensure survivors are cared for with best trauma-informed practices, the department said.
The establishment of the specialty unit comes more than a year after a Saanich News investigation into how the department mishandled reports of sexual assault survivors. The Saanich Police Department eventually apologized for the article.
that story, Police blunders deny justice to sexual assault survivors in Greater Victoriadetailing how officers misrecorded part of a 2016 interview with the survivor, identified as Chelsea, and took steps to make the criminal aspects of the defendant’s interview inadmissible in court.
Officials ultimately chose not to recommend charges against the defendants and misclassified Chelsea’s report as “baseless,” a label that came to light in a 20-month Globe and Mail investigation that demonstrated Canadian police Bias and mishandling of sexual assault reports.
Chelsea also said officials investigating her file made multiple degrading comments about her experience.
When Chelsea went back to police in 2020 to complain about how they handled her report, the officers she spoke to acknowledged their error and agreed that she was, in fact, a survivor of sexual assault. Her file was changed to read “established, but not charged.”
In Monday’s statement, Saanich Police Chief Dean Duthie said SIS demonstrated the department’s commitment to “continuous improvement, service and investigative excellence, and survivor support, care and well-being.”
“This team of experienced investigators will ensure sex crime survivors are supported and kept informed throughout the investigation,” he said.
The SPD said the Saanich Police Department and District Council also supported the Special Investigations Unit’s initiative.
The SIS team will consist of two sergeants and seven officers. It was formed by reallocating existing resources and restructuring other departments within the police department, as well as adding a new officer as a result of increased staffing levels in the 2022 budget.
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