Edmonton police refusal to release homicide names 'not OK' — Wildrose
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Edmonton police refusal to release homicide names 'not OK' — Wildrose

Edmonton Police Service’s refusal to name half of this year’s homicide victims is a disturbing trend that will erode public trust, Alberta’s justice critic says.

Airdrie Wildrose MLA Angela Pitt worries that not naming victims, particularly when their death is at the hands of a partner, stigmatizes domestic violence — a trend society has been working against.

“Domestic violence is ugly. It’s something we don’t want to hear about or talk about, but it happens and we need to be finding solutions,” Pitt told the Sun.

“You do that by shining the light on these problems, and we’re not doing that.”

Pitt broached the issue in question period after seeing that the number of times the Edmonton Police Service has refused to name a victim far outstripped the RCMP.

“You start digging and you realize that this is not OK,” she said.

The Edmonton Police Service refused to answer a series of emailed questions Wednesday, nor would it provide the number of homicides attributable to domestic violence.

But the city has seen a marked increase in domestic violence over the past few years, with shelters and counselling wait lists at breaking point.

Intimate partner violence Criminal Code charges are also up, rising to 2,336 last year from 1,955 in 2011, according to justice ministry figures.

The police department also refused to answer questions about whether its failure to name homicide victims is sweeping domestic violence under the rug and contributing to a culture of silence.

Pitt thinks it is.

“How are we supposed to do things better if we don’t know what the problems are?” she said.

Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley told the Journal that police have a tough job balancing public interest and access to information against the desires of the families of victims.

Yet when asked in how many cases family members specifically requested names be withheld, police communications staff replied, “That’s irrelevant.”

Ganley isn’t planning on raising the issue with Edmonton police just yet, and thinks the force is taking requisite factors into account when deciding whether to name a victim.

But, she said, attaching a name and face to a homicide — particularly in the case of intimate partner violence — can garner more public focus.

“I think we should always be concerned there is public transparency and the public understands what’s going on,” she said.



source : Calgary SUN
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