A young Lethbridge, Alta., woman who says she was molested as a child by her mother’s former boyfriend was left feeling abandoned, embarrassed and hopeless after the police officer who took her statement chuckled during the interview and told her he’d never seen a conviction in a historic sexual assault case.
“It was like a slap in the face,” said Allie, who is now 23.
“There was no care, there was no protection, there was nothing for me.”
CBC News is calling the woman Allie — her real name cannot be used because of a publication ban on her identity. The officer is also not being identified because he hasn’t been charged with any offences under the Police Act.
Through the advocacy of Allie’s mother, the case landed on the right desk at the Lethbridge Police Service, and sexual assault charges were ultimately laid.
Lethbridge police Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh said the officer’s actions are being internally investigated.
“My direction to our front-line folks is you’ve got to treat everyone like you want your sister, your mother, your father, your wife to be treated,” the chief said in a phone interview with CBC News.
Fifteen years ago, when Allie was seven and eight years old, her mother was dating a man named Edmond Armit. In 2006, Allie’s mother broke up with Armit when he assaulted her son and choked him.
“[Allie] kept asking, ‘Are you sure he’s not coming back, are you sure he’s not coming back?'” her mother said.
It was only when Allie was sure she wouldn’t be near Armit again that she told her mother he had been making her perform sexual acts on him.
Allie’s mother immediately went to police, who conducted an investigation.
Convicted for assaulting Allie’s brother
Meanwhile, Armit was sentenced to two months in jail and placed on probation for 18 months for assaulting Allie’s brother.
Ultimately, the Crown decided not to proceed with charges against Armit related to Allie.
“It’s kind of just been eating me up all these years,” said Allie, who has battled anxiety, depression and PTSD since 2006.
Allie said when she was finally ready to go to police on her own last year, she called ahead so that when she arrived, police would know she was about to disclose several traumatic sexual assaults.
‘Lots of times he just kind of chuckled’
Allie said the officer who took her statement bragged about being a “traffic cop” who had framed his reprimands on his office wall.
“He had a very big ego, very arrogant,” she said. “He just laid back in his chair, like he had no care in the world … there was lots of times he just kind of chuckled.”
The officer, Allie said, told her that in his career, he’d never seen a historic sexual assault charge result in a conviction, and he encouraged her not to pursue the case.
She said it took a lot of courage to go to the police, but she left feeling embarrassed and dismissed.
Her mother persisted and eventually made a connection with an officer who took the family seriously.
Major crimes unit gets involved
The case ended up with the police force’s major crimes unit, and charges of sexual assault, sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching were laid against Armit, who goes on trial in November.
The incident with the officer happened before Mehdizadeh became chief, and he said the police service is working to ensure that sexual assault complainants are meeting with major crime team members when possible.
Because the investigation into Allie’s experience with the officer is ongoing, Mehdizadeh said he’s limited in what he can disclose but that he expects his officers to treat all vulnerable citizens with compassion.
“It is our expectation that all our employees treat everyone with respect and communicate with our citizens in a professional manner.”
When that doesn’t happen, the chief said, reprimands can be placed in officers’ files and training opportunities provided.
Allie said her experience with the Lethbridge Police Service hasn’t been all negative. The officers she’s dealing with now have helped “ease” the process.
“I love them,” she said. “They’ve been so supportive.”