Last Thursday, Thunder Bay police received three 911 calls of which the first two were left ignored and resulted in the death of a 21-year-old woman. Around 2 a.m. on December 30th, the Special Investigations Unit said that the Thunder Bay police received a domestic disturbance call but did not report to the scene. There was a second call from the same house asking for the prior call to be “cancelled”, this too was ignored by the officers. Finally, a third call was made to alert authorities that the woman was dead and only then did officers respond.
The negligence of officers on duty, especially in responding to domestic violence calls, is a serious crime and often results in the death of victims who were calling out for help. On Aug. 15, 2022, 23-year-old Daniella Mallia reported to Const. Anson Alfonso and his partner, Const. Sang Youb Lee, about threatening and harassing text messages she was receiving from her ex-boyfriend.
According to the hearing, they spoke with Mallia for 39 minutes and gathered enough evidence and information to claim that a criminal offense had occurred. However, Alfonso only spoke to Dylon Dowman, Mallia’s ex-boyfriend, for three minutes and did not conduct a sufficient investigation. Mallia was found dead days later in an underground parking lot.
According to the hearing documents, Alfonso was charged with a multitude of allegations revolving around this case that led to the death of Daniella Mallia. Some of these allegations were not providing an accurate account of the call to his supervisor, failure to collect evidence and information, and allegedly reporting that no firearms were linked to either Mallia or Dowman, although Dowman had a firearms prohibition.
In 2022, Statistics Canada reported that there were 117,093 victims of police-reported intimate partner violence for victims aged 12 and older. The report details that overall rates of violence either by a family member or an intimate partner were higher in 2022 than in 2019. Stressful circumstances were outlined as being a possible reason for the spike in numbers and displayed a worrying rise when comparing data from 2014 to 2022.
The report showed a serious increase in domestic violence cases, however, the 911 calls from Thunder Bay and the death of Daniella Mallia show that the police are not showing accountability for these cases. Although the officers responsible were reprimanded for their misconduct, how much is being done to prevent first responder neglect cases from continuing?
BWSS, or the Battered Women’s Support Services, did a study into police accountability and police-involved domestic violence in 2020. The study showed the casual neglect and dismissal of reports submitted by victims, a report by Statistics Canada was included that showed that nearly 40% of sexual assault cases reported to Kelowna RCMP in 2019 were dismissed as “unfounded”.
The BWSS study also found that partners of abusive officers are even less likely to receive support to leave the abusive relationship. “When women experiencing abuse consider police a part of their safety plan, they are entrusting the police. Women who are subject to abuse by a member of police services may be unable to receive assistance as police services may not be a safe resource for them.”
Domestic and sexual violence will often go unreported to the police for multiple reasons, spanning from the risk of being re-traumatised to the cruel process of sharing details and reliving the violence. Victims of domestic abuse are often treated as suspects rather than victims by the criminal justice system.
BWSS reports that for over a decade, they have responded to wrongful arrests of victims of intimate partner violence who have been wrongfully arrested for being violent against their male partners. Many of these women were mostly Indigenous, Black or a Woman of Colour, which shows the need for the deep-rooted culture of sexism, colonialism and racism within the police force to change and be up-rooted.
Officers who are found guilty of negligence of duty are charged with minimal consequences and are often free to return to duty after a period. A FindLaw article reported that in the 1970s and 80s, American officers were trained to delay their response to domestic violence calls, the reasoning behind this training is ridiculous. The first justification is that if the police response was slow, the problem would resolve itself at home, and the second justification is that if the police did not appear, then the aggressor would leave before the police arrived.
Of course, this training and mentality does not apply to current times given the amount of change that has occurred due to women’s rights groups and adjustments to the law. However, we see that this attitude towards domestic abuse from the past remains in the police force today. When officers actively choose to neglect a call for help coming from a victim of domestic violence, they aid in the wrongful and avoidable death of that victim.
It’s time for a change to the police force, adjustments must be made to their protocols and training to make sure that victims feel safe asking for help and receiving it. Officers who neglect their duty to protect the citizens under their jurisdiction should not be able to get away with a free vacation from work, rather they should be tried in court for the consequences of their actions.
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1 month, 3 weeks ago by mash1039
Beautifully written article, very informative and revealing.
1 month, 4 weeks ago by Tilda
A very well-written and informative article on a really important topic. Thank you Sharanya for raising awareness of this👏
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