An Open Letter to Chief Bryan Larkin

Jan 18 2018

The following letter is written by five members of the Sexual Violence Task Force (SVTF). The SVTF was created by Chief Larkin of the Waterloo Regional Police Service to address high “unfounded” rates for sexual assaults. (“Unfounded” is a police reporting classification meaning that a crime never occurred and was not attempted.) From 2010 to 2014, the Canadian national unfounded average for all police services was 19%, while Waterloo Region was significantly higher at 27% (Globe & Mail, February 3, 2017). The SVTF is conducting a historical review of unfounded cases, as well as creating a template for ongoing, community-based, advocate review of sexual assault cases in the Waterloo Region. 

 

Dear Chief Larkin,

We write to you with respect, kindness, and concern.

We are deeply troubled by how the Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS) has chosen to publicly respond to the recent class action lawsuit against the service.

When the lawyer retained by the WRPS went out of his way to challenge allegations outside of court (CBC News, January 11, 2018), we became very concerned about how his message, on behalf of the WRPS, would be understood by our community. Then, when you felt compelled to defend your staff in the media and cited progress on gender equity, without naming gender disparity as a very real issue within policing (CBC News, January 16, 2018), our worries increased.

  1. Messages such as these can have far-reaching, negative impacts on women and girls, particularly survivors of gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual violence. As you know, survivors already struggle to come forward, to be believed, to find safe spaces for healing and justice.
  2. These responses diminished the work of the Sexual Violence Task Force (SVTF), indicating a lack of understanding or acknowledgement, or maybe even a rejection, of a connection between gendered disparities/harms in policing and how effectively police respond to survivors of sexual violence.

We want to be clear: we believe survivors!

We want our community to understand that the important work of the SVTF cannot be separated from the work of creating gender equity/justice in policing, or the need for equitable, healthy relationships between all genders in Waterloo Region. Acknowledging gender bias is fundamental to improving police culture and creating better outcomes for survivors who choose to report to police.

Our hope would be to continue to move forward with the critically important work of the SVTF. Together with you, we are committed to improving police responses to survivors of sexual violence and to ending gender-based violence in all its forms.

We look forward to further dialogue.

Sincerely,

Lyndsey Butcher, Executive Director of SHORE Centre & Co-Chair of the Sex Workers Action Network

Sara Casselman, Executive Director, Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region

Elizabeth Clarke, CEO, YW Kitchener-Waterloo

Kim Decker, Executive Director, YWCA Cambridge

Judah Oudshoorn, Volunteer, Male Allies program of the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region

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