A couple weeks ago I was contacted by a woman with an unsettling story of being stalked in Prince George. It happened two years ago and triggered a police review which has now concluded and shown no major wrongdoing. She wanted to share the story of what happened to her with a special focus on how she was treated by a police officer afterwards. As we spoke about it we both agreed it seemed to echo the Highway of Tears and the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls. A big part of her story, as she told it, was the impact that her police interaction had on her.
Here’s basically what happened:
She was outside early in the morning walking to a friend’s house in her housecoat when she saw something suspicious, a man rummaging through a neighbour’s yard in a trailer court in Prince George. She yelled out and waved her walking stick as a threat and the man fled by bicycle.
She had grown up in the Kootenays where neighbours look out for each other, so she applied the golden rule, protecting her neighbour’s property as she would her own. Shortly afterwards an older model SUV containing at least two people rolled past and gave her what she felt was a threatening stare.
She soon became aware that the SUV was following her. She walked to a nearby park, where a fence separated her and the SUV and called the police. The SUV circled the park.
About four minutes later the police arrived.
She had to ask to get a ride home and the officer told her to “sleep it off,” and failed to offer her victim services.
She felt the officer was dismissive and minimized the incident.
She didn’t sleep it off. For the following year that she continued living in Prince George, she kept a crowbar with her in bed. She doesn’t live there anymore.
She filed a complaint the same day with the RCMP. Something about the police interaction didn’t sit right with her. The way she was treated, the way she felt. She believed it had to do with the way she was dressed which was worth mentioning to me, she was wearing a comfortable housecoat over her clothes.
In a complaint hearing later that day she was heard by more sympathetic officers who apologized. They were compassionate and agreed with her she was in grave danger. But the incident was still unsettling. She received a call at 10 pm by the responding police officer apologizing to her. It didn’t sit right.
Ultimately she filed a complaint with the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission. The commission apologized on behalf of the first officer who didn’t immediately refer her to victim services.
As I set out to write this account as a news story, I realized right away, as others have before me, that it didn’t fit the mold of a news story. While the responding officer might not have done the best job possible, it also didn’t seem terrible.
The news story slipped away. But I’m loathe not to tell it, because I feel there could be something here. A police officer not having a perfect bedside manner at 5:30 am doesn’t seem like a news story. There is definitely something in that story that compels me to share it, even briefly here. I can’t help but wonder if it is a piece of the puzzle that resonates with the REDress Campaign.
Hey, I live 300 km away in a peaceful little town. I am not an authority or even remotely acquainted with the inner life of the police service in that city, so this could be a simplistic consideration by a dumb outsider without all the facts, but if your city had high murder rates and a history of women being abducted and killed wouldn’t you have a program that is especially responsive and considerate of women who may have just narrowly escaped being killed? Wouldn’t you have a detective followup on that immediately and turn that city over?
Why was she told to sleep it off? Could it be that that is what everyone else has been doing?