Deputation to the
Metro Toronto Police
Services Board

September 1992

Lynn Cohen
The Barbara Schlifer Commemorative Clinic

My reason for being here today to make this deputation are two-fold. The first being, as a sexual assault counsellor at the Barbara Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, for the past five years, I understand firsthand the impact that sexual assault has on a woman's life. The second reason is Jane Doe, whom most of you will recall as a witness in the Junger/Whitehead inquiry. Jane Doe is one of my clients. I have been working with her for two years and in that time I have watched her being slowly and systematically destroyed/re-victimized by the very system that was designed to "serve and protect" her. I would also like to add that in the past two years alone I have worked with at least half a dozen women who have been sexually or physically assaulted by police officers, but these women did not have the resources, the support or even the desire to go forward with charges. The reason for that being their fear (and justifiably so) that they either wouldn't be believed or they would be further re-victimized by any hearing or investigation that might take place. It takes incredible amount of strength, determination and courage for any woman who has been sexually assaulted to come forward and press charges (if the assailant is known).

It also helps a great deal when a woman has the resources to get the kind of moral and emotional support that is so necessary. However, even the strongest, most articulate and resourceful woman is tempted to back down when her assailant is a police officer. After all, let's be honest, police officers have an incredible amount of power/authority. Whether we like or dislike them, respect or disrespect them, there is always a certain amount of guarded fear that accompanys any dealings with them. They can search us, question us and even arrest us, as long as they have "reasonable and probable grounds". Imagine then, if you can, how the average person would feel coming up against one in a disciplinary proceeding or in a court of law. Then further imagine what that would be like if you were a woman who had been sexually assaulted by one. There already now exists for the woman a sense of being out of control, of feeling helpless, of feeling afraid maybe even ashamed, and now finally, imagine going to a disciplinary proceeding or court of law and pointing the finger at someone in that position of power/authority who knows the law and who maybe has the backing and support of the entire police force. All of this becomes even more frightening when we witness the kind of pattern we have seen developing, that of police officers and their superiors not being held accountable or responsible for their behavior even when their guilt has been acknowledged. What must also be acknowledged or understood is the inherent power imbalance between the complainant and the police officer. This is crucial in order to truly make the kind of systemic changes that have been recommended by the Junger/Whitehead Inquiry.

While I realize I cannot comment on everything I would like at this time to direct my remarks specifically to section 11 of the Draft Directive regarding the Junger/Whitehead Inquiry report, (that is "Support and Protection of Sexual Assault Victims").

Sub-heading A) deals with the direct involvement of the Sexual Assault Squad in all sexual assault investigations (including any policeofficer). We disagree. There exists an inherent conflict of interest when police must investigate their own. Historically, we need only to look at the Junger/Whitehead report to see evidence of this. We believe, that any investigation of a police officer accused of sexual assault must also include an investigation by a completely separate, lay body, in other words, there must be included in the process an independent civilian review, which would reflect a mixed representation of race and gender. I believe, there would be a much greater chance at impartiality this way.

Sub-Section B) deals with the kind of support a sexual assault victim should have when becoming involved with an investigation. My question is, who provides that suppor? Another "specially trained" police officer? That won't work. Most women who have been assaulted by a police officer are not going to readily open up to another officer, no matter how genuine and understanding they might be. There needs to be an "outside" expert working on whatever team is designated to do the investigation. Not a police officer but someone who works specifically with victims of sexual assault.

Sub-Section C) addresses the support of "vigorous" prosecution against those, who commit offenses of violence against women. This must happen under all circumstances, regardless of how a woman presents herself emotionally. Women must never be discouraged against laying charges by a police officer who decides that because a woman maybe "emotionally distraught "that she will be an unreliable or unstable witness.

On the following page continued again under Sub-Section A) addresses all complainants being given notice of all hearings. This once again is crucial. It is imperative, that women have all the information that is vital to any proceedings they are involved in. When a woman is sexually assaulted (in particular by someone in a position of power and authority) she feels she has no sense of control over her body or her life. Keeping her informed, and updated on any proceedings, will at least give her back some sense of control, just by knowing what is going on. It may seem a small thing but it's not.

The next Sub-Section B) deals with a woman's right to request anonymity. This may not be crucial for all women but for those whom it is, they should never have to run all over the city to get a lawyer for an injunction to stop the police from releasing her name. This sub-section is imperative. Lastly, sub-section C) addresses the victim's right to have input into any sentence passed by the trials judge during a disciplinary hearing. This is of course absolutely necessary because only the victim can address the ongoing impact on her life, and the losses she has experienced because of the sexual assault.

Before closing, there are a couple of additional recommendations I would like to make.

  1. We would like to see the Board direct the Chief to mandate training and education in the area of sexual assault (in fact in all areas of violence against women). This includes not only the initial basic training they receive, but also ongoing education. This could be accomplished by having consultations or training sessions with women's groups or individuals who have the expertise. The Barbara Schlifer Commemorative Clinic is asked all the time to provide training workshops to other social service agencies, schools ect. Our counselling staff has never been asked to come to a police department not even the Sexual Assault Squad, to talk about the impact of sexual assault on women, their reaction or resulting behaviors. Clearly, the need for this ongoing education is necessary. I would like to add, that this type of consultation might be one way of measuring the effectiveness of some of the inquiry's recommendations.

  2. We would like to see the complainant have the right to full, independent legal counsel at a disciplinary hearing. One who is accorded the same rights and standing as prosecutor and defence counsel. That is to present evidence, to make motions, objections and submissions. This again is crucial in order for the complainant to be afforded the same rights and protection as a police officer, who is subject to disciplinary proceedings; and it is particularly important where the interests of the prosecutor may diverge from those of the complainant.

In closing there are two things I would like to say. The first is, I'm pleased and impressed with the work that went into the Junger/Whitehead Inquiry Report and I support most of the recommendations. It finally begins to address the obvious conflict of interest that exists when the police investigate their own. Lastly, I would hope and pray that never again will women have to go through the ordeals that Jane Doe, Robin Gardner-Voce, or Roma Langford went through, because of their decision to speak out.

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Last modified: February 18, 1999

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