VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The Vancouver Police Board will be reviewing the latest crime-stat report Thursday evening, but the executive director of a Vancouver agency that works with abused women is taking issue with the report’s tone.
Angela Marie MacDougall of Battered Women’s Support Services is now seeking accountability for what she considers “disturbing opinions” and fears the document gives insight into the VPD’s organizational culture on gender-based violent crime.
For one, she takes exception to a subheader that reads ‘Positive Results’ when referring to a five per cent drop in reported sexual offences in the first nine months of this year, compared to the same period last year.
“What’s interesting about that is that we know that most sexual violence is not reported to police; it’s actually one of the most underreported to police, violent crimes that there are,” she says.
“Overall it tells us that women are not reporting sexual assault to police. And, and that is not positive. It’s rather a reflection of how ineffective the legal system is and how ineffective it is in rendering a level of justice for victims of sexual violence.”
The report mentions that intimate partner violence files “are very time consuming for patrol officers, often consuming an entire shift” – another example MacDougall says of an opinion that has no place in a crime report.
MacDougall says women who come forward with their complaints shouldn’t be made to feel burdensome on the department.
“Yes, it is time-consuming and it should be time-consuming if the police are going to do a proper investigation. So, the comment really does contribute to a societal and, frankly, a systemic shaming of women who report their experiences to the police,” she says.
“So this comment is quite troubling. It borders on offensive, and it is quite remarkable that this report is being tabled tonight [Thursday night] to the Vancouver police board, without any analysis or critique.”
She points out while the report says the VPD received five per cent more complaints of intimate partner violence compared to last year, her agency has fielded 400 per cent more calls than last year. She believes it demonstrates victims are bypassing law enforcement when seeking remedies for their abuse.
“For the most part, victims are reporting to friends and family and community-based organizations.”
READ MORE OF THE BWSS 2020 ANALYSIS HERE:PRESS RELEASE Police Complain About the Time it Takes to Investigate Domestic Violence During COVID-19
Her comments come during a year activists and protesters across the country have called to defund the police. And many are calling on the money to be re-distributed to community-based response organizations.
“I really can’t believe that this was signed off on and these comments are being forwarded to the Vancouver police board, particularly in a time when there is considerable examination of the role of policing in our communities and looking at the ways in which funding is allocated to policing,” MacDougall says.
“Our agency is a first responder, and we don’t have core funding. Organizations are having to apply for funding every year, in order to keep the doors open and also to do other kinds of fundraising, you know, which the Vancouver Police Department doesn’t have to do.”
She’s especially disappointed, given the VPD was the first in the country to set up a domestic abuse unit.
“It feels in, so many ways, like that our efforts have not been effective. And so we have to question the value of the labour that it takes in order to address these issues within an institution that hasn’t learned its lessons, despite all of the efforts that us and other organizations have taken in order to help them.”