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

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By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc

If a child sexual abuse law enforcement investigator reaches a pinnacle of defeat where do they turn? Is there someone in the law enforcement agency that can assist this investigator with the mental approach that caused him to fail? These difficult questions generally do not generate any answers. Most law enforcement agencies just don’t have the resources to assist investigators with traumatic negative decisions. If the investigator is skilled in the field of investigations, then handling failure may be something they have dealt with along their career and they have strategies they use and no they can use to resolve conflicting situations.

You never hear about the investigator who put his hopes and desires into a hypothesis which simply had no substance. Further, the investigator could not find the reasons he had failed and if this was something which they will be dealing with in the future. There is much conjecture when it comes to investigating an allegation of child sexual abuse. The immediate questions are broad and general and sometimes the investigation proves that if a crime was committed there is no evidence to prove there is no evidence; sounds confusing but it is true.

An investigator needs to realize that more than not, the failure of the investigations they will conduct may become paramount. No matter how intelligent and competent the investigator is the circumstances which are negative and compelling may cause the investigator to become depressed and discouraged. The mental approach has to be one where the investigator raises their head and internally decides that today is a new day and there will be positive challenges and changes.

There are no role models for the law enforcement investigator to admire or learn from. Those who walked before the new investigators did not have the electronic resources, training and education about how to deal with child victims, witnesses and sexual offenders. There were no child interview protocols or any arguments about who would conduct the interrogation of the sexual offender because they had been to the John Reid interrogation school; basic and advance courses. No the investigator of today is searching for “Investigator Right” and answers to questions which they have wanted to ask someone who may know something about their roles and responsibilities.

The mental approach by the investigator is not to be dependent on answers from their supervisors. If you were to take the time to interview the basic Special Assault Unit (SAU) supervisor you would quickly ascertain that the supervisor is not trained or educated in the child sexual abuse field; and in fact has probably never investigated a major crime case such as a child sexual assault allegation. This aspect of this article is not to demean or disrespect supervisors who are assigned to SAU. The fact is to demonstrate that the investigators working in SAU today have limited mentorship programs to assist them with handling failures.

The law enforcement agency should have the mental approach to create evaluation criteria which assists the law enforcement investigator with their failures. The investigator needs to know that whatever mentorship program which is developed, there must be an evaluation for the investigator to learn from. There are reasons that should be found for why the investigations being conducted by this specific investigator are failing. To increase the investigators understanding of why their investigations continue to fail, the law enforcement agency should provide the investigator with a foundation to draw from. A set of guidelines, rules, protocols, procedures, processes, and laws are necessary to hold the investigator accountable and responsible for the manner in which the investigator performs their job.

Law enforcement investigators need to identify and recognize that not all investigations will have a successful outcome. In fact, the lack of evidence seen in child sexual abuse allegations can be very frustrating to those involved in the case especially the investigator. When the investigation to date demonstrates that the allegations appear to be valid and credible it becomes difficult when the investigator can’t overcome the barriers and problems which preclude the investigation from moving forward.

The mentorship programs can turn-around a law enforcement agency where their investigation record is successful. Law enforcement agencies are no different than small or large corporations. The lack of effectiveness will be discussed in the community and people will begin to question the character and credibility of their law enforcement agency. A perfect example of this is what has occurred in Los Angeles over the past twenty years. The investigations have been flawed, unreliable and the end result is the community began to question the integrity of their investigators and overall their police department.

The need for a positive and successful mental approach has to be implemented into the law enforcement agency life-line. It is not enough to have a couple investigators being successful in the investigative arena and the remaining investigators dragging the others down into a hole. The perception by the prosecutor’s is the investigators are bringing them cases they either can’t criminally charge or they charge but give the case a 50-50 chance of being found not guilty or guilty. These odds are odds the filing prosecutors do not like to consider as it brings its own set of problems, moral issues and a feeling that the law enforcement agencies aren’t intelligent and competent to conduct their investigations.

The expectations by those who work in the criminal justice system may be unrealistic that the investigators whose mental approach provides no creativeness or innovation; a lack of thinking outside the box; the investigators are simply lacking in common sense. The mission for everyone involved is to get the proper mental approaches in place which will eliminate the failure rate, engage those who need a mentorship and evaluation program.

Tomorrow, the effective practice of using the appropriate mental approaches will build credibility in the community. The audience of any law enforcement agency is the citizens in the community. These people will approve resources for the agency to function and operate at a higher level of performance i.e. such as a mentorship program which promotes training and education. The possibilities are endless and the need for creative and innovative programs has never been so needed for law enforcement officials. There needs to be credibility and a promotion for investigators to work diligently at reaching the highest performance level possible.

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