London Police Chief’s Apology, A southwestern Ontario police chief’s apology this week for the time it took to prosecute five professional hockey players with sexual assault was a significant step toward addressing harm. Still, it lacked key elements required to demonstrate full accountability and rebuild trust, according to experts.
London Police Chief’s Apology Missing Key Elements: Experts
In a news conference that drew national notice Monday, in London, Ont., police Chief Thai Truong apologized on behalf of the force to a complainant and her family for the nearly six-year delay in charging five members of Canada’s 2018 World Junior Hockey Team.
However, the chief consistently refused to explain why the matter was initially closed without charges in 2019 or what sparked the review that led detectives to reopen it in 2022, citing the pending court action.
Truong stated that he would be able to provide more information in the future and that he was “confident” that such a circumstance would not occur again.
None of the allegations against the players have been tried in court. All five have stated through their lawyers that they will defend themselves against the allegations.
The London police chief’s office declined to respond immediately.
The chief did well to acknowledge the delay and the harm it caused “far beyond” the complainant, and he appeared sincere in expressing his regret, according to Shannon Moore, a professor at Brock University whose research focuses on restorative justice and trauma-informed policy, practice, and pedagogy.
The London police commissioner’s office declined to comment immediately.
According to Shannon Moore, a Brock University professor who studies restorative justice and trauma-informed policy, practice, and pedagogy, the chief did well to acknowledge the delay and the harm it caused “far beyond” the complainant, and he appeared sincere in expressing his regret.
On top of that, “there has to be action for this to feel meaningful, like changes within the police force, for instance,” she went on to say.
Police may be constrained in what they can say now, but they must show an “absolute commitment to taking action when some of those limitations are lifted,” Moore said.
“It comes down to trust, the trust needs to be rebuilt because it has been broken,” she told me.
“Until someone that feels an impact from this harm has a sense that real reparation has been taken forward or a real understanding of the totality of the harm caused, then that trust isn’t built.”
While the chief must be mindful of the criminal court case and what defense lawyers may bring up at trial, there are ways to indicate action is being taken without jeopardizing legal proceedings, according to Melanie Randall, a law professor at Western University whose research focuses on sexual violence, including state accountability for responding to such violence.
Truong may make an “explicit promise to be fully forthcoming” at the end of the trial, with a detailed report and external scrutiny, rather than delivering “a vague ‘we can’t talk about that now,'” she explained.
The force should also increase its interaction with community groups and support services relating to violence against women, allowing those groups to attest to a “concrete change,” she said.
When a public institution apologizes, its actions must match its words, she explained. “Words are important, but actions are more important,” she went on to say.
Randall recalls working to hold Toronto police accountable in the case of Jane Doe, a woman sexually attacked by serial rapist Paul Callow, commonly known as the “balcony rapist,” in the 1980s. Doe sued police in the late 1990s for neglecting to alert local people about a rapist on the loose.
Randall stated that the police initially offered a public apology but later withdrew it during the civil trial to avoid having to pay compensation.
Following the verdict, another public apology was issued. “It’s much easier to say you’re sorry than to be sorry,” Randal added.
“Because if you’re truly sorry, you might have to pay compensation, or you might have to have your institution critically scrutinized from outside and you might have to make huge changes – you might have to change the culture.”