The London Police Service (LPS) has been forced to seriously evaluate its practices after a series of harrowing facts regarding unfounded rates of sexual assault allegations were released by The Globe and Mail.
In a 20-month investigation, The Globe and Mail gathered data from 870 police forces across multiple cities in Canada and found that London presented one of the highest unfounded rates of the 25 largest police communities in the country.
This means that a large portion of allegations regarding rape and sexual assault are often dropped with no charges laid.
The story hits particularly close to home as it details the story of former Western student. The story refers to her as Ava, a first-year living in Delaware Hall in 2010 when she was assaulted.
It’s the first time such a comprehensive overview of unfounded rates has been investigated. For the most part, police have either made their data private or simply haven’t kept records at all. According to Christopher Sherrin, associate professor at the Faculty of Law at Western, the issue has rarely been explored in legal studies as well.
“It’s a bit of a hidden issue,” said Sherrin. “We haven’t, in Canada before this investigation, had such expansive data on which to comment. So the discussions that have occurred so far in Canada have been somewhat in the abstract.”
The investigation made waves across the country and even prompted the LPS to release a public statement on how they will be conducting a review of their current investigative practices.
“The review will examine the training that investigators receive, how we can continue to enhance training, as well as explore ways in which the police may better respond to the needs of victims,” according to the statement.
London's chief of police John Pare issued a public apology, expressing his remorse for the victims whose experiences eroded their trust in the police and left them feeling unsupported.
Jamie Cleary, University Students' Council vice-president, said that Western should be taking initiative moving forward as well.
“I think Western will really have to look at how we’re supporting our students and what [we can] do better,” said Cleary. “But it’s also important to remember we have really great supports on-campus available to students. So hopefully we can use this as an opportunity to better promote those services as well and Western continues to be proactive in addressing sexual violence on campus.”
As of yet, the LPS has discussed the topic within the police force as well as with community partners. They have also partnered with Victim Services of Middlesex-London in an effort to strengthen supports for victims and survivors of "crime and tragic circumstances in the city of London," according to a press release.