Law Enforcement’s Mental Approach To Child Sexual Abuse Investigations – Part VIII

By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc

Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't”                                                                                                                           Mark Twain

The brilliance of some of the matured law enforcement investigators isn’t as appreciated as they should be. Instead of expending energy working diligently on their case assignments, the investigator has to deal with the different personalities of the law enforcement administration. Politics simply has no place in law enforcement affairs. Unfortunately, on the local and state levels the top administrator is selected by a city manager, governor, city council and so forth. Being attached to these individuals does not provide the top administrator the options seen in county government i.e. Sheriff’s who are elected. Their only responsibility is to the public; although it is still politics.

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Most law enforcement agencies have a budget to operate on and in their yearly budget they expend a certain amount of funds on specialized units. These specialized units consist of several hierarchical administrative positions which are responsible for operating the unit. Depending on the size of the law enforcement agency this may decide on how much contact the administration will have with mid-level management and the assigned investigators.

The mental approach for the law enforcement investigator may become focused on the internal problems of the law enforcement department instead of the case assignments.  The constant internal problems and barriers which arise on a daily basis create an atmosphere of incongruity instead of cohesiveness.
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The investigator needs to abide by the units policies, procedures and standard operating procedures, but sometimes that is not enough for the administration. If a citizen contacts law enforcement administration stating they believe the investigator stepped outside the rules and regulations of the department the complaint must be investigated. The complaints of the public have to be taken serious and in child sexual abuse allegations the alleged sexual offender will present the idea to the administration that the investigator is not being constructive in his/her approach to the allegations.

All complaints from the public must be investigated in order to brin
g some type of resemblance of order to the specialized unit. The common problems associated with those who work in specialized unit is it takes all types of personalities in order to achieve the proper status of a team.

It is imperative that the unit becomes a team and the team a unit. Running from the psychological and physical stress of the daily demands of the job is not the appropriate solution to dealing with the stress. The daily issues which the investigator will face sometimes may come from the administration, direct supervisors, cohorts, the public, the child victim, the non-abusing relative, the sexual offender, media, and so many other individuals and organizations. The mental approach for the investigator is one of a balancing act and dealing with all of these individuals may be a challenged for the inexperienced and naïve investigator. Over time the investigator will learn how to multi-task and deal with these types of daily stressors.  

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Dealing with conflicts is one of the main stays of being a law enforcement official. If not preparing reports, dealing with telephone calls, tracking down witnesses, apprehending sexual offenders the investigator should be planning and preparing for the next case assignment.

The positive mental approach generally brings about successful investigative results. Resolutions to complex situations require the investigator to be on the top of his/her game. It isn’t enough to just interview someone and then present the case investigation to the prosecution for the filing of criminal charges; it is simply more than that.

The investigation results rest upon the investigator’s ability to coordinate all of the facts and evidence of the case. The case needs attention therefore the mental approach of the investigator must be one of assignment of time for each case. Sharing the time necessary to accomplish tasks may shorten the life of the investigation. If the case has an endless amount of loop holds which draws too much time and effort on the part of the investigator, there must be a time when the investigation must come to a conclusion.

The decision to terminate an investigation due to circumstances beyond the control of the investigator needs to be discussed between the investigator and their immediate supervisor and eventually the prosecutor. To assume in the investigative world that all cases can and will be solved is not plausible, reasonable or logical. It is the case where the child victim is competent, witnesses are strong and credible, medical evidence supports that a sex crime occurred, biological and physical evidence was collected and analyzed, and the sexual offender confessed.

These types of investigative results are minimal in coming together in such a positive structure. Most of the time the investigator may have a competent and credible child victim and a confession from the sexual offender. This is generally in the eyes of the investigator and the prosecutor and they will move the case forward by criminally charging the sexual offender with a crime.

Most cases are negotiated down prior to a trial i.e. pleading guilty to a reduced crime. This generally occurs for many reasons, but generally the child victim is not that credible; there is minimal medical evidence; the sexual offender lawyered up and the case is not strong. Success at finding the sexual offender guilty if a trial was to occur may be unlikely.

Tomorrow, this series is becoming exciting and challenging to write about as well as read. The progress in this series has blossomed further than originally predicted. The meaning “mental approach” has for law enforcement officials is concise as well as broad in the elements, definitions and characteristics that make the education and training relevant when dealing with a child sexual abuse investigation. The path to finding answers to understanding mental approaches is the next door I will open and explore. Happy New Year!!!

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