Prince Albert police are less likely to dismiss sexual assault complaints as false reports, compared to other police forces, according to data acquired by the Daily Herald and the Globe and Mail.
In a detailed investigation, the Globe and Mail requested statistics from every police service in Canada, asking them how many sexual assault complaints they deem “unfounded.” The category is meant to capture cases where police conclude a crime did not occur.
False crime reports do exist. But sexual assaults are classed as unfounded at a far higher rate than other crimes. At about 19 per cent nationally, the unfounded rate for sexual assault is also significantly higher than what independent studies have estimated for genuine false reports: a rate pegged at between two and eight per cent.
The Globe also found that police forces differ dramatically in how often they dismiss claims of sexual assault as unfounded.
The Prince Albert Police Service filed 16 per cent of complaints as unfounded over the five-year period up to the end of 2014. That’s higher than in some large centres, like Toronto and Vancouver, but much lower than the average of 27 per cent that cities of Prince Albert’s size reported.
The service’s response has evolved over time. In 2014, only 8 per cent of complaints were declared unfounded, compared to 27 per cent three years earlier. New data, acquired by the Daily Herald, shows that the rate has risen slightly over the past two years. In 2015, 12 of 82 cases were deemed unfounded. In 2016, it was 12 of 90, or just over 13 per cent.
Police Chief Troy Cooper said the trend likely reflects a change in the way police keeps tabs on complaints. He said officers have extensive training on dealing with sexual assault cases, initially through the Saskatchewan Police College and then subsequently on the job.
For more on this story, including a first-hand account of how police deal with complaints, please see the Feb. 16 print or e-edition of the Daily Herald.