An Alberta judge looking into the stabbing death of a High Prairie woman 10 years ago recommends 911 operators and police officers be better trained to recognize risk factors in domestic violence.
Brenda Moreside was found dead in her home in February 2005, 12 days after she called RCMP to remove her husband Stan Willier who had broken into the house about 300 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.
Both the 911 operator who took Moreside’s calls and the RCMP have admitted they failed the victim in not taking her entreaties more seriously.
During the fatality inquiry the operator who took Moreside's call admitted she treated the call more like a case of vandalism and was dismissive, used unprofessional language and an improper tone.
The operator told Moreside police could not charge Willier with damaging his own property.
After Moreside persisted, the operator called police. However the RCMP never dispatched a car to the home.
“This particular conversation between the constable and Ms. Moreside concluded with the officer suggesting to Ms. Moreside that both Moreside and Willier should get some sleep and deal with the situation in the morning,” Judge James Wheatley wrote in the recently released report.
Lack of response a mistake
Shortly after the CBC brought the case to light, an RCMP official called the lack of response an error and opened an internal investigation.
In his fatality report, Wheatley acknowledged that since Moreside’s death, policy governing the handling of domestic violence has changed dramatically in the province.
Frontline officers now have assessment tools such as the Family Violence Investigation Report and the Integrated Risk and Threat Assessment Centre (I-TRAC).
A formal document “Domestic Violence for Police and Prosecutors” was published in 2006 and updated in 2009 and 2013 while the Police Advisory Committee created a new domestic violence training module in 2013.
“The inquiry also heard that the civilian operators since this incident are now much more educated and reviewed in respect of the practices they use in taking calls from private citizens,” he wrote.
Training improved since Moreside's death
“Indeed training now devoted to these operators is in the writer’s view exemplary compared to the guidance that early operators [received] such as at the time of Ms. Moreside’s death.”
However Wheatley concluded with recommendations that:
- non-police operators are trained in their jobs especially in respect of recognition of risk factors in domestic violence situations.
- police services institute training programs for recruits on domestic violence, risk assessment and management.
- programs be set up to monitor the performance of officers in their early stages of field work to ensure those officers develop their skills in respect of domestic violence situations.
- police services on a national, regional and local basis develop a domestic violence policy.
- officers intervening in a domestic violence situation complete a document such as a Family Violence Investigation Report and, when appropriate, referrals are made to the Integrated Threat and Risk Assessment Centre.
- governmental agencies ensure that institutions such as I-TRAC continue to be funded and functional and available to all levels of operations within the province where risk assessments are required.
- the Provincial Death Review Committee continue its now fledgling operation much along the lines of its Ontario equivalent to ensure that all domestic violence deaths are reviewed and recommendations made to prevent such deaths.