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Reopening cases not focus of reviewing 'unfounded' sexual assault complaints

But Guelph Police Chief said it could happen if warranted during upcoming look at 145 recent cases
20160202 Guelph Police Station Exterior KA

Guelph Police will be taking a look at 145 sexual assault complaints from 2012 to 2016 that were classified as "unfounded."

While the intent and scope of that review is not to reopen cases, Guelph Police Chief Jeff DeRuyter said that if something jumped out or clearly indicated a second look at the case, that could happen.

"That's not really what our plan is. There are significant challenges in terms of time frame and some case law," DeRuyter said.

Procedures, how the cases were handled and eventually labelled is the main focus.

"It's not really the approach that we're looking at - that we're reopening all these investigations ... but it's a possibility," DeRuyter said.

Staff Sgt. Andrea Ninacs, who has specific expertise in the area of sexual assault cases, will be doing the review of the cases and reporting back to the Guelph Police Services Board with her findings in May.

DeRuyter briefed the board at its regular monthly meeting on Thursday.

"We want the community to know we are responding, that this is important to us," DeRuyter said."

Police forces across the country are doing similar reviews in the wake of a Globe and Mail series that showed one in five sexual assault complaints ends up being "unfounded" by police, well above the rate for non-sexual assaults.

The Globe and Mail piece looked at police records from 2010 to 2014, but the Guelph Police review will look at the most recent past four years.

"One of the challenges we have is that we don't know what the issues are," DeRuyter told the police board.

The review will look at everything from how cases are coded at their conclusion, supervision of the cases and also if improvements can be made to the training that officers undertake regarding sexual assault cases.

"Maybe that training needs to be enhanced ... maybe we need to update that," DeRuyter said, referring to training done in-house and at the police college.