The Many Roles Of The Private Investigator In Investigating Child Sexual Abuse Allegations Part VIII

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By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc
In the private investigative world, there are many choices an investigator must make when making the decision to investigate a claim of child sexual abuse. The initial investigations are generally performed by law enforcement officials. The determination of which law enforcement agency investigates the crime depends upon the type of crime and the jurisdiction in which the crime occurred.
Private investigators may become involved in the investigation at the same time as law enforcement depending upon the client and their perspective of what they believe needs to be accomplished. The difference between being proactive and reactive depends upon how the investigator deems how the investigation should be carried out.
A proactive investigation basically means the investigator will be out knocking on doors to locate witnesses and to ascertain if they witnessed the incident. Most child sexual abuse incidences occur behind closed doors, however, the collateral witnesses may have information not only about the alleged child victim, but the rest of the victim’s family. The more information the investigator is able to obtain initially will go a long way when later performing the case analysis.
A reactive investigation basically means the client has decided to wait until the investigation is completed by law enforcement and then the investigator would begin their own investigation. This type of approach is the less used of the two because law enforcement has the reputation of indirectly getting witnesses to say what they want to hear. This is problematic, because a tainted witness does no one any good as a legitimate investigation can be seen as coercive and manipulated which then places questions on the integrity of the law enforcement investigation.
In the reactive investigation the witnesses law enforcement interviewed will be the witnesses the investigator will need to talk to about the alleged crime. When the investigator meets with the client, there must be an initial decision on what the investigator should be collecting when it comes to direct, biological and physical information.
The investigator may be able to obtain documents which may be produced by a witness who is close to the alleged child victim, witnesses and sexual offender. This obtained document may be a psychological examination of the alleged child victim which indicates the child is not truthful, suffers from being bi-polar and so forth. Please note, just because a psychological evaluation dictates that a child has mental problems doesn’t determine that the child can’t be a victim of sexual assaults. In fact they may be a targeted sexual assault victim because of their psychological problems.
The investigator can utilize both the proactive and reactive investigative methods and techniques. The decision how to use them individually or in combination will depend on the demands of the investigation. The investigator may have to temper what a client wants and believes they need in reference to the investigation. The investigator who brings years of education and experience may need to advise the client that the approach they want the investigator to take may prove to be harmful to the investigation and the end investigative results.
In the business world there are many stories about those who inspire to be proactive instead of reactive. Some clients may believe that the investigator is not demonstrating initiative because of utilizing a reactive approach. Let us consider some points of how the investigator should intellectually think about being proactive:
1.      The investigator needs to evaluate and examine what will happen if a proactive approach is utilized. If the investigator acts now instead of later, will the success of the investigation greatly improve?
2.      The investigator needs to look at the big picture, what specifically are the allegations, and what immediate steps need to be taken?
3.      The investigator needs to know when to back off and allow the investigation to takes its course without the investigator pushing the envelope.
4.      The investigator needs to understand the investigative findings to date, what to do with the information and what direction should the investigation turn towards.
5.      The investigator needs to determine the type of investigation law enforcement is committing. When interviewing witnesses who have been interviewed by law enforcement the investigator not only needs to ascertain what the law enforcement official ask of the witness, but how the questions were asked and answered.
There are many other proactive steps which should be mentally processed through the investigator’s investigative thinking outside the box. These mental images should provide the investigator with a clear understanding of how the crime may have occurred and how the investigator will prove their initial and ultimate hypothesis.
Tomorrow, the pursuit to being the best professional investigator will take us on a new journey of understanding the many roles and responsibilities the investigator deals with. The decision for the investigator to be proactive or reactive comes down to what method and technique will benefit the client. As I indicated above, each case will have its own issues and problems and how they are dealt with may determine the potential success and positive and/or negative outcome.

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