ABOYNE – OPP officials will not provide any details about an ongoing SIU sexual assault investigation involving the Wellington County detachment.
They also refuse to comment on why the force did not, in this case, adhere to its practice of issuing a press release announcing investigations by the SIU (Special Investigations Unit).
Despite several Advertiser requests for information from the SIU and police, next to nothing is known about the alleged sexual assault(s) reported by the Wellington County OPP to the SIU on Jan. 24.
The Advertiser discovered on Feb. 6 that the case is listed as an ongoing investigation on the SIU website.
OPP Constable Josh Cunningham, one of two Wellington OPP officials that usually announce the launch of SIU investigations within a few days, directed the newspaper’s questions about the sexual assault(s) to West Region OPP officials.
West Region spokesperson Sergeant Laura Lee Brown stated in a Feb. 11 email that the OPP “is conducting a parallel investigation” of the alleged sexual assault(s), but she offered no other details.
Police refused to provide even basic details about the case, such as the date of the incident(s) and the number of officers and alleged victims involved. They also ignored questions about why the media was not informed of the SIU’s involvement and whether or not the OPP has a press notification policy.
“Should the OPP investigation result in charges, a media release will be issued as per policy,” Brown stated, adding the SIU is handling media inquiries.
SIU communications coordinator Monica Hudon would not provide any details, other than confirming Wellington County OPP officials reported the incident to the SIU on Jan. 24.
Hudon explained that in cases involving sexual assault allegations, the SIU does not release details that could potentially identify the alleged victim or the officer(s). That can include the time, date, location and other details of the incident, she said.
If a charge is laid, “a limited amount of information” is released, but once the matter is before the court, no further information is released, Hudon stated in an email.
“The SIU hopes that by not releasing identifying information in these cases, potential complainants will be encouraged to come forward,” she stated.
Hudon said there is no SIU requirement for police departments to alert the media of an SIU investigation.
“Each service may or may not have its own policy regarding that,” she stated.
However, police forces are mandated under provincial legislation “to notify the SIU immediately of an incident involving one or more … police officers that may reasonably be considered to fall within the investigative mandate of the SIU,” Hudon explained.
Because SIU and OPP officials refuse to release the date of the alleged sexual assault(s), it is unclear whether Wellington County OPP officials met this requirement.