City police told to review ‘unfounded’ cases
Mayor troubled by report of dismissed sex assault complaints
Hamilton’s police board has directed the service to review “unfounded” sexual assault cases dating back to 2010.
Statistics published in a recent special Globe and Mail report say 30 per cent of all sexual assault claims investigated by Hamilton police between 2010 and 2014 were dismissed as “unfounded.”
That means police believe the alleged crime was not attempted or did not occur.
Hamilton police have since argued a more “detailed analysis” of internal sexual assault statistics shows the number of unfounded cases is actually dropping, from 24.8 per cent in 2010 to 16.5 per cent last year.
Police Chief Eric Girt attributed the discrepancy to differences in reporting requirements between the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey, a standardized survey used by police services across Canada, and the sex assault unit’s own records.
Regardless, the nationally reported numbers “set off alarm signals,” said Mayor Fred Eisenberger, who sits on the police board. He put forward a motion, supported unanimously by the board, asking police to review all unfounded cases going back to 2010. Police brass estimated the review would require a second look at more than 700 cases.
Previously, Insp. Dave Hennick told The Spectator the service had already started reviewing its practice and reporting procedures after receiving the Globe and Mail’s request for data in 2015.
Hennick said sexual assault detectives have since undergone training on brain trauma suffered by assault victims and how cases are logged in the police database.
Other police forces have committed to reviewing unfounded cases, including the OPP, RCMP and the London Police Service, which reported a similar 30 per cent unfounded rate in the national survey.
Lenore Lukasik-Foss, director of the Sexual Assault Centre of Hamilton and Area, called the decision “a big deal.”
“I know survivors are talking about this,” she said, adding The Women Abuse Working Group coalition had planned to request that police conduct such a review.
“Will they be reviewing old interview footage? Engaging with advocates? I really don’t want it to be just a numbers game,” Lukasik-Foss said, referring to the discrepancy between internal and national “unfounded” statistics.