Edmonton police are absolving themselves of any wrongdoing after a young aboriginal woman who sought help for rape was taken into custody.
The 18-year-old claimed to have been arrested and denied a rape kit by Edmonton police last week, after her mother called police on her behalf.
“We’ve had an opportunity to review the facts based on what was given to the police service at the time. We’re more than satisfied with the actions taken by the officers,” Deputy Chief Brian Simpson told reporters Monday.
According to the Edmonton Sun, police responded to a late evening call at an Edmonton motel on Feb. 17. Two officers arrived on scene and knocked on several doors before finding the woman.
Officers learned she was wanted on a previous warrant for a breach of probation.
“EMS treated the woman at the scene, however there was no report of sexual assault at that time by her,” said Simpson.
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The woman was held at the Edmonton Remand Centre and not taken to hospital for a rape kit until late Tuesday night, more than 48 hours after the assault, her lawyer, Parm Johal, told the Edmonton Journal.
“She should have been taken to the hospital right away,” Johal said. “The Remand Centre should never have taken her in. ... The police dropped the ball.”
According to her lawyer, the girl was staying at the motel with her boyfriend, but he left after they got in a fight. She later made friends with two men and a woman who were also staying at the hotel. She alleges that the group attacked her both sexually and physically after inviting her to their hotel room.
However, police say the woman did not inform officers she had been sexually assaulted until almost a full 24 hours after she had been arrested. She was taken to hospital about 30 minutes after reporting the rape, they claim. Doctors at the hospital confirmed the sexual assault.
“Based on the information given to officers responding at the time, their actions were appropriate,” Simpson told The Journal. “The followup actions taken when other information was given was also appropriate.”
However, Johal said police should have concerned themselves more with finding the perpetrators instead of arresting the girl.
“The message they’re sending out to victims of sexual assault is, ‘Don’t bother phoning the police if you’ve been sexually assaulted, if you have a warrant out for you or if you’re breaching your bail conditions because you know what’s going to happen to you? You’re going to be arrested as well,’” Johal said. “It was completely inappropriate for the police to be laying these charges on her.”
Simpson denied the accusations.
“There have been allegations and comments that EPS is dismissing concerns of aboriginal women in Edmonton.” Simpson told the Sun.
“These comments are inaccurate, irresponsible and offensive and do not reflect our ongoing relationship with the aboriginal community, something we value very much.”
The girl spoke with CBC News, saying she was told by police she could file a sexual assault report once she was no longer in custody.
"I want something to be done about how I was treated so it doesn't happen to anybody else," she said.
According to court documents, the charges of breaching bail were dropped Feb. 22 when she was released from the Remand Centre -- five days after being taking into custody.
While a formal complaint has not been filed, the allegations of the case are now public and the police department will launch an internal investigation.