'They have to show leadership:' Justice minister wants action from RNC

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The top brass at the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary needs to show leadership in light of numerous contentious cases with their officers, according to Newfoundland and Labrador's justice minister.

Andrew Parsons, who says he has confidence in the RNC management, says his government and people in the province are looking for action from the police force.

"The RNC — any police force — has to show leadership here, and I certainly expect leadership to be shown in these times when people are asking questions," Parsons said.

He spoke following protests held after RNC Const. Doug Snelgrove was found not guilty of sexual assault, and in the middle of the inquiry into Const. Joe Smyth's killing of Don Dunphy.

While Parsons said it's important that people don't paint all police officers with the same brush, some people will inevitably see their confidence waver.

"When you have protests regarding the actions of a police force, yeah, we have to take notice," Parsons said.

"I mean, I can't sit here and see that happening and think that this is just run of the mill."

Action needs to be taken

Snelgrove was accused of sexual assaulting a woman whom he drove in a police cruiser from downtown St. John's to her home. The not-guilty verdict was met with swift and strong criticism against the RNC and the criminal justice system.

Alongside protests, explicit graffiti was sprayed on downtown streets that took aim at Snelgrove and the RNC.

Parsons said confidence can be gained back with quick and appropriate action, and some of that action is underway with the inquiry into Don Dunphy's death, the work to establish a civilian serious incident response team, and the internal discipline process for Snelgrove.

"If people don't think that action is being taken, that will lead I think to the lack of confidence," he said.

"Right now, I think the action's being taken. We want to see action, there's a number of people waiting to see that."

Legal advice for sexual assault victims

The provincial government is taking action, too, he said, by taking steps towards the creation of a sexual assault response program.

Parsons said the program will provide legal advice for victims and complainants of sexual assault.

"I think this is an opportunity for us to better assist complainants, because these people are going through the worst time in their life, probably," he said.

"We have to change, I think, the way the system works."