Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Sexual Violence Case Review Similar to Philadelphia among New Police Projects

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Sexual Violence Case Review Similar to Philadelphia among New Police Projects

Article excerpt

Ontario funds sexual violence response projects

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TORONTO - Ontario is putting $1.8 million toward 15 pilot projects aimed at improving police responses to sexual violence, including two case review models that are similar to a celebrated approach pioneered in Philadelphia.

Advocates say the case reviews in Brantford and the Ontario Provincial Police's northwest region are a good first step. But so far, they say the projects fall short of the Philadelphia model, which frontline workers have long urged Canadian police to adopt.

"I anticipate that we might be in a place very soon where we will have a Canadian first in adopting the Philadelphia best practices, but we're not quite there yet," said Sunny Marriner, executive director of the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre.

The Philadelphia model enables frontline workers and legal advocates to conduct annual reviews of cases declared unfounded, or cleared because an officer believes no crime occurred, as well as some open cases. Since the model was adopted about 17 years ago, the city's unfounded rates have dropped from 18 per cent to below 10 per cent.

The Ontario initiative is part of the province's plan on sexual violence. The government asked police departments to submit proposals last year and on Wednesday announced the 15 projects across the province that would receive funding.

"Our ultimate goal is to end sexual violence and harassment and to create a space where survivors feel more comfortable and confident disclosing that information," said Community Safety Minister Marie-France Lalonde.

Lalonde said she is especially interested in the Philadelphia model, but each police service has its own unique issues and should determine its own approach. The province hopes to learn from all the pilot projects and draw out best practices, she added.

In Brantford, cases from 2014 and 2015 will be reviewed by a panel made up of representatives from a local sex assault centre, victim services, the community health system, Wilfrid Laurier University, police and a legal expert on violence against women.

The project will aim to develop best practices in sexual assault investigations and an enhanced training program for officers. …

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