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How are police officers trained to investigate sexual assault?

Last Updated Jul 16, 2019 at 11:37 am PST

A police officer interviews an Indigenous teen girl about sexual assault. (Source: CityNews via APTN)

KELOWNA (NEWS 1130) – Video of a Kelowna RCMP officer questioning an Indigenous girl’s testimony about an alleged sexual assault has been heavily criticized.

“Were you at all turned on during this at all, even a little bit?” says the unidentified officer at one point in the 2012 video, which was released by APTN last month.

Reaction to the video has been coming in over the past month, with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale having described the line of questioning as “absolutely abhorrent.” Now, the RCMP has launched a “fulsome review” into the interview.

This week on Ask The Chief, Metro Vancouver Transit Police Chief Officer, Dave Jones, gives his perspective on the controversial interview.

What do you think about the video?

“I think when you watch the video, or you hear from the video, you’re quite surprised. I would even use the word ‘shocked’ by the line of questioning. Now, clarifying that we’ve seen a portion of it, though. What we’ve been able to see or hear certainly doesn’t come across as anything that would’ve been developed in a current day model of training or delivery method of how we would do things.”

What shocked you in this video?

“We have to put ourselves in that person’s situation as to what happened. So, some of the questions appeared, you know, a bit harsh or out of line, in terms of they seemed to be a bit more focused on the victim. Now, having said that, and I don’t have access to the rest of it, it would be difficult to explain why that line of questioning was used, but that would have to come from the interviewer themselves.”

What do you think of the question, “were you turned on, even a little bit?”

“It’s very difficult to find out where the value of that question would come into play.”

Has training improved since 2012?

“We have become more aware of different programs and different methods, even including how you interview individuals. We have very specialized training for the interviewing of young people and kids. We’ve come to recognize what we call the ‘vulnerable sectors” or “people who are vulnerable” and how we need to respond to them accordingly, and then of course we can work our way up to interviews that involve crime suspects.”

How do you respectfully question the testimony of an alleged sex assault victim?

“We have to take the stance that we believe you in the first instance and let the evidence take us where we may, in terms of criminal allegations.”

How much training do officers receive for interviewing a sex assault victim?

“The general interview course is about a week long. A sexual assault [course] can be a couple of weeks long, depending on which techniques are taught.”

Listen to the full interview with Chief Dave Jones:

Editor’s note: Metro Vancouver Transit Police have no connection to the video, but Chief Jones has agreed to provide his perspective.