When the Toronto police services board reigns, it pores - over details. And newest member Hamlin Grange seemed to fit right in last Thursday, February 10.
"Why does the report not address the fact that the chief says recommendations have been implemented but the auditor says they haven't?"
Grange was speaking of the auditor general's review of 1999's Jane Doe Audit, a stinging indictment of the operations of the force's sexual assault squad. Grange isn't the first to ask such a question; police tradition tends to have a long half-life, especially in this case.
The auditor general's review of the sexual assault squad in 1998 found there had been 1,570 reported sexual assaults, four reported a day. However, the sexual assault squad's mandate was to investigate only the 525 assaults where penetration had occurred (even if it was the obvious goal of a rebuffed assailant) and only if they were perpetrated by a stranger, despite the fact that most assaulted women are raped by men they know. The squad ultimately took action in 15 cases.
Divisional officers criticized the squad, saying that "specific cases were accepted or rejected by the squad depending on which sexual assault investigator 'happens to answer the telephone. '"
The current mandate is no longer hampered explicitly by antiquated distinctions between attempted and actual penetration, but there is no indication of whether an assault by an acquaintance of the victim is finally considered a "real" rape.
During last week's deputation by Jane Doe, who successfully sued the police in 1998 for not warning the community about a serial rapist, she said the matter of consultation is an ongoing nightmare.
But after years of hungering for a voice within the police, consultation is only the appetizer.
The main focus now is a proposed steering committee of anti-violence activists who would liaise with the force and the board and guide the way the police approach sexual assault.
"It's not just a matter of consultation," said deputant Beverly Bain. "It's a matter of setting up new structures."
The auditor's review paints a familiar picture: shuffling and rhetorical changes at the top, with little or no trickle-down.
"First-response officers (are directed) to gather only 'basic information' from women who have been sexually assaulted," explains the review, to prevent re-traumatization or out-of-hand dismissal. But many detailed interviews have been conducted by divisional officers, often without the mandated sexual assault training.
The review also flagged prolonged delays in taking statements, questionable classification of cases as "unfounded," completed reports not forwarded to the sex crimes unit, and the failure of detectives to review allegations deemed unfounded.
Often, little effort was made to collect medical evidence, and a recommended protocol for sexual assault care centres to report improprieties has not been implemented.
Grange asked Deputy Chief Bill Blair if any officers have been subject to disciplinary action. Blair said he had no knowledge of any such censure and stated that any potential punishment "can go up to forfeiture of time off" - which would only create a personnel shortage and the opportunity for harried first-responders to repeat the mistake. Everybody loses.
Finally, between 30 and 40 per cent of reports were not submitted to the violent crime analysis system operated by the RCMP, within the prescribed 21 days. This last point is of great concern to the auditor general.
"Many officers dismiss reports out of hand and go on to make disparaging remarks," says Kara Gillies of Maggie's, a peer-run harm reduction project for sex workers. In 2003, during consultations with the sex crimes unit following the murders of four sex workers, the unit was also involved in raids on 250 "bawdy houses." Hardly good faith.
It then came time to vote on endorsement of a steering committee, which passed unanimously.
"I have been seeking this for years," said Jane Doe. "The women's community has been seeking this for decades. "