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

Dr. Samuel Johnson. (detail)
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Dr. Samuel Johnson

By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc

“Your aspirations are your possibilities”

It isn’t just a gun and a badge which makes law enforcement officials strong and powerful. If the official has the proper and correct mental approach in facing any investigative decision, things will happen. The average law enforcement investigator will rely upon their mechanical training and education they receive the first time they put on their gun and badge. However, if the investigator can’t rise above the mechanical training and education, than the investigator will be nothing more than a pseudo robot.

So what are the proper mental approaches in which an investigator who is responsible to investigate child sexual abuse allegations? Let us examine and evaluate ten specific mental approaches:

     1.      The mental approach an investigator should create is alternative hypotheses. The options available to the investigator come from facts, evidence (biological and physical), medical evidence, witnesses credibility, and so forth.
     2.      The mental approach an investigator should create after the initial hypothesis is mental imagery. Mental imagery according to Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is defined as: Mental imagery (varieties of which are sometimes colloquially referred to as “visualizing,” “seeing in the mind's eye,” “hearing in the head,” “imagining the feel of,” etc.) is quasi-perceptual experience; it resembles perceptual experience, but occurs in the absence of the appropriate external stimuli. It is also generally understood to bear intentionality (i.e., mental images are always images of something or other), and thereby to function as a form of mental representation. Traditionally, visual mental imagery, the most discussed variety, was thought to be caused by the presence of picture-like representations (mental images) in the mind, soul, or brain, but this is no longer universally accepted.”

      3.      The mental approach an investigator should create is goal settings. The possibilities are endless when an investigator takes control and establishes a Case Action Plan and follows it. The investigator should not compartmentalize the Case Action Plan, it should be general enough where the investigator can identify milestones and re-generate a new Case Action Plan as the investigation progresses.

      4.      The mental approach an investigator should create is an investigatory approach to the child sexual abuse allegations. The reason this mental approach is so important is because every investigator wants to support, advocate, stand-by the alleged child victim, provide the State witnesses with the strategy, analysis, investigative processes that he/she is utilizing to investigate the allegations. The role of victim advocates is to keep the alleged child victim and State witnesses informed and provide emotional support for the child victim. As much as the investigator wants to provide the alleged victim his/her loyalty, he/she has to be objective, neutral, non-bias, and so forth. There are no sides to choose the investigator’s role and responsibilities surround finding the truth through a fact-finding process.

      5.      The mental approach an investigator should create is an investigatory approach which demonstrates they have been trained and educated in the field of child sexual abuse allegations. Further, this training and education must include how to properly conduct a child victim interview. Failure to have both of these types of training and education eliminates the many possibilities in utilizing the above and below mental approach criteria’s.

     6.      The mental approach an investigator should create is one of assisting his/her other co-horts in any investigation where the lead investigator who has been assigned a ‘rush filing’ case provides the necessary assistance. Further, the mental approach has to be all investigations belong to the Special Assault Unit (SAU). There is no ‘I’ in the promotion of unity and team approach when it comes to investigative assignments. The SAU supervisor should plan specific cases which require a team effort. This will teach the investigators self-discipline and maturity in their role as an investigator.

      7.      The mental approach an investigator should create is one of thinking outside the box i.e. being creative and innovative during each aspect of the child sexual abuse investigations.

      8.      The mental approach an investigator should create is one of a mentorship and evaluation program. The investigator when entering the SAU needs a trained, educated and experience senior investigator who has investigated more than 200 cases. Although this number may vary, the supervisor in SAU should be able to gauge who would be a great leader and teacher. The senior investigator may have the ability to manage an investigation, but may not be an individual who can teach others what he/she knows.

    9.      The mental approach an investigator should create is the ability to take a basic investigation and demonstrate that the method and technique he/she utilizes in fact-finding to find the truth ostensibly may make the investigator intelligent and competent. This intelligence and competency comes from the investigator being capable of interviewing the alleged child victim, witnesses and interrogating the sexual offender.

    10.  The mental approach an investigator should create is a profile of the alleged sexual offender who has been accused of sexually assaulting children in a variety of neighborhoods. This investigative profile needs to be based on the psychological and physical characteristics of the sexual offender. Profiling is not new in the field of investigations and there should be someone in the law enforcement agency who is trained, educated and experienced in profiling sexual offenders. The investigator who is assigned to the serial sexual offender case should seek advice from the experts in the child sexual abuse industry.

These 10 mental approaches, plus the many others which are available to the law enforcement investigator should be thought through completely and thoroughly. Law enforcement investigators should also include a process which allows the investigator to create, consider and apply mental approaches in the area of the fact-finding mission to find the truth.

If the truth demonstrates that the sexual assault allegations are true, then the investigator must locate, apprehend, process, interrogate and incarcerate the sexual offender until the trial; if the sexual offender decides this is what he/she wants to do. If the alleged sexual offender is innocent the law enforcement investigator needs to apply the same amount of effort that they would have put into an investigation which concludes that the alleged sexual offender committed the act of sexual assault on a child.

Tomorrow, the many mental approaches which an investigator creates opens the door to a multitude of questions about the strength and weaknesses of the idea behind how the mind can be a useful target when investigating a child sexual abuse allegation. It should be exciting to the law enforcement community that there are different methods and techniques to utilize when investigating a child sexual abuse allegation. The ten mental approaches above should be a starting point for the investigator to apply in any and all of their investigations. This approach allows the many opportunities the investigator will need to become a competent investigator. Clumsy investigators are a dime a dozen and does nothing to support that those who are investigating child sexual assaults have more to give than a trip in the park.  

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