12.08.2011

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



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By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc

When an individual selects which profession they will expend their lives working in, being a private investigator is one of those fields where many want to become one, but little have the initiative or motivation to pursue it. Understanding this mentality predicts the type of personality it takes to become a private investigator. If you interview many of the private investigators who got into the business because they were good at investigating and researching issues they would tell you this had a lot to do with determining if this was the profession they wanted to pursue. Having a knack for figuring out puzzles and putting them back together is a strong trait one needs to have to be a great investigator.

It is unfortunate but not everyone can be a private investigator. There are many newly retired law enforcement officials who just put in 25 years as a law enforcement official and they are looking to supplement their income by conducting a few interviews, tracking someone down, and so forth. The problem with these types of individuals is generally they weren’t good at conducting investigations and interviews when they were law enforcement officials and clocked in and out without worrying about when they would get paid. This mentality of clocking in and out won’t work in the private sector. Private investigators work odd and long hours and sometimes the pay is unsatisfactory.

Being a law enforcement officer and a private investigator are basically two different professions. The law enforcement officer investigates alleged crimes, interviews witnesses, collects evidence and apprehends and assists in the prosecuting of individuals who allegedly are responsible for committing the crime. The private investigator has the same basic responsibility except they are generally independent contractors who hire themselves out to a variety of clients with individual demands, needs and projects they want to see completed in a specific time frame.

The private investigator needs to approach each investigation with a neutral and objective frame of mind; however, they know that if their investigation is not performed in the manner in which the client requested it to be performed, the client will most likely not call them back for future assignments. An investigator who stands by their integrity and the quality of their investigations will lose nothing in the long run. It is better to be known as an investigator who is hired for being honest, intelligent and competent, than an investigator who will do anything and everything to manipulate and distort the facts of the investigation just to please the client. The legal community is large, but the circle is small and if the investigator becomes known as incompetent and unreliable the word will get out and their time as an investigator will be in jeopardy.

In child sexual abuse cases, the professionals who work in the child abuse industry are individuals who care about a fact-finding mission which is based on fact not fantasy. It is important that the interview protocol methods and techniques which the investigator utilizes be the type of interview protocol which is based on reliable, competent and well researched fundamentals.

Child abuse victims need to be interviewed by professionals who are educated and have been trained by other professionals who know what they are doing. The problem with most of the child interviewers is they are civilians who have no knowledge or training as a law enforcement officer, which makes it difficult for them to see the big picture. An example of this statement is a child interviewer knows nothing about the investigation to date and begins interviewing the alleged child victim. There are questions about the testimony of the child about what specifically happened to them. The investigation demonstrates to date that the alleged sexual offender was out of town for the majority of the times the child alleges the sexual assault occurred. If the child interviewer knows nothing about the gaps and potential lies in the child’s testimony how is their interview going to be useful to the investigation. Further, how are the gaps and potential lies going to be dealt with?

This is only one of the many problems with having a civilian child interviewer conducting the child victim interviewers, but this will be discussed at a later time. In being a child sexual abuse private investigator, the intelligent and competent investigator needs to understand what child sexual abuse is all about. The power and control a sexual offender has over a child victim is complex and the factors and characteristics surrounding the allegations take years to understand the nuances and subtleties. Therefore, the investigator who is hired to perform an independent investigation needs to be a quick study if they are going to be an asset to the case in chief for the client.

The investigator who is willing to put in the time to read articles, books, journals, studies and so forth will begin learning the make-up of child sexual abuse allegations. The complexity of a child sexual abuse allegation requires the investigator to have the intellectual ability to be creative, innovative, reasonable and logical. Failure to expend the necessary time to become knowledgeable about how to conduct a child sexual abuse investigation places pressure on the remainder of those who are working on the child sexual abuse allegations with the investigator.
For the most part investigators are working with a team of professionals who have their individual responsibilities e.g. retaining a medical professional to review the medical records and so forth. The investigator must work hand in hand with all of the other professionals on their team. Sharing information about what the investigation is uncovering and which direction the facts to date are taking them to.

The client’s ability to put together a professional team is vital to defend against the alleged criminal allegations. The State has many resources and will have law enforcement investigators, counselors, therapists, victim advocates, medical personnel, evidence technicians and so forth to assist them in preparing to prove that the alleged sexual offender committed the act. In order to compete against the State the private investigator needs to have knowledge of what specific roles and responsibilities each of these professionals play.

Due to budget constraints the private investigator may have to wear multiple hats and in doing so interview and conduct backgrounds on these individuals. In the child sexual abuse investigation for the defense, the investigator must identify how the professionals had contact with the alleged child victim and what influence if any did they have in what the child eventually will testify to.

Tomorrow, the many roles and responsibilities the investigator will play will be dependent upon their education and experience. Many times, the investigator will have no other choice but to wear multiple hats because the client just can’t afford to hire anyone else. It is great when the investigator can work with skilled professionals who know what their roles and responsibilities will be. However, the clients who can afford this type of defense are far and in between i.e. they are rare and come around for the investigator about every five to ten years. Michael Jackson’s and O.J. Simpson had the resources to put together an unbelievable defense teams.



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