The Calgary Police Service is following in the footsteps of its counterpart in Philadelphia in adopting a proven approach to verify all reported sexual assaults are not prematurely dismissed.
The CPS will join forces with five partnering agencies to create a Case Review Committee. The group will meet on a regular basis, at least three times each year, to review sexual cases where investigators determined the allegations were unfounded
The Case Review Committee will be comprised of representatives from:
- The Calgary Sexual Assault Response Team (CSART)
- Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse (CCASA)
- The Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre
- Alberta Ministry of Status of Women
- Mount Royal University Sexual Violence Response and Awareness
The members of the committee will be privy to pertinent details of the investigations and the steps taken by investigators before concluding the accusations were unfounded, but private information, including identities, will remain confidential.
“By including external partners such as CCASA, it gives the opportunity to give our experienced and knowledgeable input,” said Danielle Aubry, CEO of CCASA. “The Philadelphia Model has been around for over 17 years and it brings together, very specifically, frontline sexual assault service providers to examine police files.”
“We feel honoured to have been chosen to be part of this committee and look forward to working with the other community partners.”
According to police, committee members will assist with identifying potential training opportunities for officers and suggesting improvements to CPS policy and procedures.
The committee approach to reviewing unfounded sexual assault cases originated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the turn of the century.
The Calgary Police Service’s decision to adopt the Philadelphia model followed February’s release of the results of an investigation conducted by The Globe and Mail that found that one out of every five reported sexual assaults in Canada end with police deeming the allegations as unfounded.
Staff Sergeant Bruce Walker of the Calgary Police Service Sex Crimes Unit says Calgary’s unfounded rate was lower than the national average but there is room for improvement.
“There are still other police agencies that are doing better than us,” said Walker. “We felt it was important to learn from their successes and see what we can do even better here.”
In the past three months, the Calgary Police Service has reviewed all sexual assault investigations from the past five years that were closed as ‘unfounded’. As a result of the case, one case was reopened for further investigation and 47 cases were reclassified as ‘open, inactive’ where additional evidence would be required in order for the investigation to proceed.