Four women have come forward alleging that five Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers sexually assaulted them, according to St. John's lawyer Lynn Moore.
Moore, a sex abuse litigator, said on social media Monday that information about a unnamed RNC officer had come to her attention. She put out a call for other reports from alleged victims of police sexual misconduct in Newfoundland and Labrador.
As of Tuesday morning, more women had contacted Moore, she said. All four women told Moore the alleged assaults happened in St. John's after the officers offered them a ride home at night, she said.
"I am concerned … that this is a culture of sexual abuse of women," Moore said in an interview Tuesday. "That it's more than just one bad apple. It's a series of bad apples, and maybe an institutional problem."
Four of the officers facing accusations are no longer with the force, Moore said Tuesday morning, with the most recent alleged assaults occurring seven to eight years ago.
Moore said she has not received evidence so far to suggest women are in danger at present, but remains concerned about current risk. She said more reports were coming in throughout the day Tuesday, and the number of alleged victims and officers was likely to rise.
"I am concerned that it's a current-day problem.… Once is a fluke, twice is concerning, three is a pattern. At what point does it become a systemic problem?"
The allegations come two months after the conviction of RNC Const. Doug Snelgrove, found guilty on May 15 of sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman in her own home in 2014.
The woman, widely known as Jane Doe, testified Snelgrove had offered to drive her home after dancing at a St. John's nightclub, then engaged in sexual acts with her after helping her inside her apartment. The woman testified she could not recall consenting to any sexual act between herself and Snelgrove.
The survivor testified three times in front of three separate juries, owing to mistakes made on the judge's bench during the first two trials.
Sexual misconduct widespread: sources
This week's allegations come as no surprise to people familiar with the force.
CBC News spoke to several insiders in the wake of the Snelgrove trial who described widespread sexual misconduct from officers on duty, who habitually targeted civilians in St. John's.
They say officers have been known to drive downtown while working the night shift in an attempt to pick up intoxicated women, although that practice subsided after the Snelgrove investigation in 2015, CBC News learned.
One source, who spoke to CBC on a condition of anonymity, also referred to three known internal sexual misconduct investigations, at least one of which resulted in the investigated member leaving the force shortly after.
Information about internal sexual assault probes on officers was not widely shared among members of the force and was not made public, according to one person, who added at least one investigation appeared to be "swept under the rug."
Another person, also with inside knowledge of the force and speaking on a condition of anonymity, said at least one RNC member had been investigated for sexual assault and left shortly after. That investigation occurred several years ago, the source said.
It's not clear whether those investigations are related to the accused officers in Moore's files.
Moore said none of the four women, as far as she knows, has reported the assaults to police, and they have expressed hesitancy at engaging with the criminal justice system.
We're just trying to figure out right now the scope of the problem. - Lynn Moore
"To my knowledge, no one has any intentions of reaching out to the police," she said.
She said a class-action lawsuit is a possibility but it's not clear yet how the accusers plan to proceed.
"We're just trying to figure out right now the scope of the problem," she said. "We're very concerned with the number of police officers that have been identified as sexually violent, that this is a bigger problem."
The RNC refused an interview about the allegations, issuing a statement by email in response to an inquiry from CBC. Chief Joe Boland also refused several interview requests in recent weeks on the topic of sexual misconduct and transparency within the force.
"The RNC encourages victims and survivors of violence to come forward so those responsible can be held accountable," the statement said.
"There is an investigative process in place which supports victims and survivors of crime, with civilian-led oversight."
On Tuesday afternoon, the RNC notified media of a press conference scheduled for Wednesday morning about the sexual violence allegations.