Law Enforcement’s Mental Approach To Child Sexual Abuse Investigations

Registered Sex Offenders
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By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc

In child sexual abuse investigations does the law enforcement investigator find that if allowed they may drown in the details of the allegations? To what level of precision must an investigator take the investigation to, to find a standard which allows for intelligent, competence, thoroughness and completeness?

In discovering the heighten standard of how a law enforcement investigator perceives a child sexual abuse investigation may decide, at this heighten level, how the investigation will be conducted. Knowing in the mind that there is some type of strategy which will bring the investigator into the realm of finding the correct answers; that the level is superior to any other investigation to date. This level would be based on the disclosures made by the alleged child victim, witnesses, sexual offender and any professional, which may be involved in the case in chief. Too often investigators are quick to make an assumption that the facts as presented to the investigator are the true and accurate rendition of what took place.

How many investigators fall prey to the ever long lasting details which do not come together as is seen in the failure of pursuing an allegation which has no merit only consequences? Is the investigation an endless process or at some point is there a standard or process which dictates a conclusion to the investigation?

The answers to the above questions are difficult to answer. In moving to the next level of investigations, the investigator needs to find new levels of fact-finding methods and techniques, which have never been broached before. Once the investigator sets their eyes on these specific levels the information, which is gathered, is simply superior to anything the investigators has ever seen or dealt with before.

In order to find these specific unaccomplished levels, the investigator must be willing to challenge every aspect of the investigation which at some point was previously easily obtained, but now calls for thinking outside the investigative box. The investigative possibilities are endless and the newly discovered levels are taken step by step from one level to the next. In order for the evidence, facts and hypothesis’ to come together as a whole, the investigator must be willing to try and understand what stands before them.

The new law enforcement investigators must use their creativeness to move from the average stagnant fact-finding process to one which will make a difference for all of the individuals involved in the case in chief. There are specific goals the law enforcement investigator wants to reach prior to assisting the prosecutor in preparing for trial. They are:

     1.      If the fact-finding proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the alleged child victim was sexually abused by the alleged sexual offender, than the investigator’s goal is to obtain a voluntary confession from the alleged sexual offender. This provides the following:
a.      If the confession is clearly stated and addresses all of the allegations and then some, then the possibilities of the criminal case heading to trial is minimized if not eliminated. Instead a plea of guilty is entered and the child is not victimized again.
b.      If the alleged sexual offender reviews all of the evidence against them, the possibility of the criminal case heading to trial is minimized if not eliminated. Instead a plea of guilty is entered and the child is not victimized again.
c.       The defense attorney who represents the alleged sexual offender will generally direct the offender to plead guilty if the evidence speaks for itself. Further, that the defense attorney will advise the offender to plead guilty; not putting the alleged child victim through an emotional and stressful trial; and that the judge may give the offender some leniency because the offender stepped up to the plate and admitted that he sexually assaulted the alleged child victim.
d.     If the fact-finding proves beyond a reasonable doubt the investigator may be able to get the offender to pour his/her heart out and confess to the other sexual assaults he/she is responsible for. It is statistically sound that a sexual offender usually did not just begin sexually assaulting children today, that it is more probable that this offender has been committing these sexual acts against children for years.
e.      If the offender is taken off the street then the potential for future child sexual assault victims is then minimized, eliminated or both. With the new child sexual assault laws which have been passed over the past decade i.e. Megan’s Law, the possibility of the offender being released from prison is minimized and the offender being a potential threat to children should eliminate the threat. Their existence from this point forward is one of a prison cell where they will live for the remaining years of their life.
     2.      The investigator needs to set goals for their professional development i.e. training and education. There are many workshops a law enforcement investigator can attend during the year. The law enforcement training budget should predict and provide the opportunities for its Special Assault Unit investigators in receiving futuristic training. This training and education can then be brought back to the unit and the investigator who received the training and education can then train the other investigators.
    3.      Training and education using Webinars are now being offered on the Internet. These types of venue training and education presentation range from thirty minutes to three hours. With the new and creative training mechanisms which are now being employed across the board allows the investigators to receive training at the right price.
     4.      The investigator needs to constantly be evaluated by their supervisors. The areas of evaluation should be specific but broad. The topics of the evaluation can stem anywhere from managing emotions to managing their case load. An evaluation system should be outside the six month and yearly performance reviews and evaluations. These evaluations which are performance based should enhance the opportunity for the investigator to become competent, complete, thorough, creative and innovative in their approaches to the investigations they are assigned to.

English: Angel M. Rodriguez, command criminal ...
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When assigned to the Special Assault Unit the responsibilities of being an effective and competent investigator isn’t easy. Each day the investigator will have to deal with emotional issues, which most law enforcement officers will not have to consider or be confronted with in other specialized units. The danger of being assigned to such an emotional assignment can affect not only their professional position, but also their personnel lives. Nobody said being a law enforcement officer was going to be easy. It takes a special individual who wants to protect and serve their community in investigating child sexual abuse cases.

This week we celebrate our Lord’s birthday and we give thanks to those of you who have made everyone’s life special and different. To all of you who are reading this article I want to thank you for your continual support and understanding of the many issues children face on a daily basis. Today, tomorrow and as we move into 2012 let us take every opportunity and protect and support every child we know and pray for those we don’t know. Merry Christmas!!!

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  1. Really Good Post!!

    Family disputes such as divorce or separation can be an emotional and chaotic time of your life - especially when there are children involved. Family Lawyers Perth http://bit.ly/v5z1xZ

  2. Very informative and interesting too and I personally liked it very much.
    Thanks for sending across.
    Dr Pramathesh Panchal.

  3. We have good experienses using police profiles in social media with interviewing child sexual abuse plaintiffs. It lowers the level to inform about these crimes and talk about unplesant things related to sexual crime. Social media even lowers the level compared to talking in the phone.

    For example in one case my collegue chatted with a young girl in Facebook and after that he called that girl and tried to gather more information what had happened. After call the girl wrote in Facebook that she couldn't tell all the things in the phone because she was too embarrassed and anguished. Then she wrote in Facebook what really happened.

    You can imagine the difference of courage to tell about unplesant things in "real" interrigation situations where the young plaintiff is at police station and the whole interrigation is filmed. The level to talk about unplesant things is very high.

    When we gather precise information to the investigator about the crime, it's much easier to make the actual interrigation.

    These things are especially assosiated with online sexual abuse cases where the young plaintiff usually feels guilty to what has happened. They might feel that everything is their fault and many time they can leave something unsaid because they have voluntarily agreed to do the things for example in webcam.

    At the moment Finnish police is developing a messenger system wich can be used in our work and maybe in the future with "normal" investigators.


All comments and feedback appreciated!

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