Say Their Names: Police transparency around victims of homicide

Who does the silence serve? Why don't we know their names?

There has been an increasing amount of work on the topic of Police forces releasing names of victims of homicide in recent years, as there has been a marked shift in the way the police are reporting this information.

On February 24th, Edmonton Police killed two people. One, a suspect in a liquor store robbery, and two, an unrelated person in their apartment. Two months and two days later, we still do not know the name of the innocent person killed.

 

Experts say it is important this information not only be released, but in a timely matter for reasons such as - allowing for a community to know what is happening within it and to heal, understanding patterns amongst victims, it increases attention on the issue, and helping to destigmatize family violence. It raises awareness about harsh realities such as violence against women and racially motivated violence.

If you look at practices across Canada, you will see no continuity amongst Police policies on this matter. However, you will see that forces increasingly have begun to withhold this information, either entirely or for a prolonged amount of time.

Groups such as the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters, Law Professors, Victims’ Rights Advocacy groups, and the Media Coalition, among many others, have emphasized how vital access to this information is.

The Edmonton Police Service’s current policy is to release the name of victims following an autopsy, providing that: the release of the deceased’s name does not compromise an investigation; the identity of the deceased is confirmed; next of kin have been notified, whenever possible (https://www.edmontonpolice.ca/News/namingofhomicidevictims).

It would be helpful for the Edmonton Police Commission to create a public transparency policy for the Edmonton Police Service.

References:

Community Safety Knowledge Alliance report prepared for EPS in 2019, “Revealing the Names of Homicide Victims: Understanding the Issues”: http://cskacanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/FINAL_REPORT_Releasing-Homicide-Victim-Names_April9_20191.pdf 

Withholding homicide victim names: Looking for a win-win solution for families: 

https://journalcswb.ca/index.php/cswb/article/download/109/227?inline=1#b19-cswb-4-73 

Alberta Council of Women's Shelters: Naming of women killed by their intimate partner: https://acws.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/12.February.2019_ACWS-Position-Statement-on-Naming-of-Victims.pdf

“The naming of victims should be undertaken for the following reasons: 

  • It provides an opportunity for the community to convey their respect and to comfort surviving family members. 
  • The public should know who among us is being killed and who has killed them. 
  • Publication of victims’ names can help investigations or provide crucial information about a case, even if seemingly solved; supporting stakeholder accountability. 
  • Information about murders helps communities and society better understand social problems. 
  • Naming of a victim makes them and the crime more real for communities and increases attention on the issue.”

ASIRT’s policy: https://open.alberta.ca/dataset/340637f1-4930-4cbb-878f-94c3629d2c60/resource/ae51e8cd-22dd-4bae-87a0-5287c7373392/download/asirt-asirt-statement-on-naming-policy.pdf 

 

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Address: 1 Sir Winston Churchill Sq, 2nd Floor, Edmonton, AB T5J 2R7