1.13.2012

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

State police hunt for the McMath kidnappers in...
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By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc

“Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step; only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find his right road”
Dab Hammarskjold

Sometimes being a law enforcement specialized investigator can have its confusing and frustrating days. Everyday there is the daily psychological and physical stressors which wear on the investigator. Time after time the mentality to do the right things just doesn’t click. Then as the investigator is sitting there thinking about the 30 cases they have open they dream about closing all the cases out with 30 arrests and everyone lives happily ever after. About this time the supervisor walks over and places a brand new case assignment on the investigators desk where the alleged sexual offender is in custody and the mother of the child victim is waiting at the front desk to talk to the investigator.

The above is a true version of what transpires in the daily life of a Special Assault Unit (SAU) investigator. The responsibility to keep the alleged sexual offender in custody may be the best resolution for everyone. However, the investigator has to consider ‘what if’ the alleged sexual offender is innocent? ‘What if?’ These two words have a powerful message behind them. Balancing the scale of justice once seemed easy. When wearing the blue uniform and responding to calls, the bad guy was for the most part apparent to everyone and to affect the arrest was easy as well as driving him to the correctional facility where he/she was booked.

Times have changed due to the numerous fictional books which have flooded the book stores; the many television shows which deal with law enforcement investigators; the criminal element; and the many movies where the good guy i.e. law enforcement officials get their man. In the most recent movie “Courageous” this is about four law enforcement officers in their daily struggles and one of the officers loses a son. If you attended the movie theatre to watch this movie and if you were the only dry eye in the theatre, there are many psychologists available for you to see.

In order to find the correct and proper mental approach the investigator needs to go through several stages. These stages are:

1.      Stage One: The law enforcement investigator needs to collect all of the information about the allegations. The investigator should look at every resource in which to gather the information. A resource could be a witness statement, a piece of biological and/or physical evidence, a document and so forth. Obtaining as much information as possible the investigator can then begin to link all of the information together. The investigator needs to have a clear understanding of what they have and what they don’t have in this initial review.
2.      Stage Two: The law enforcement investigator needs to decide which mental approach needs to be utilized next as it is imperative during stage two that the investigator begins understanding how the information gathered to date (during stage one) will create the initial hypothesis the investigator will set forth.
3.      Stage Three: The law enforcement investigator needs to set forth the mental approach they will use to accomplish the goals of the investigation. Establishing a course outline of the investigation is vital to the success of it.
4.      Stage Four: The law enforcement investigator needs to apply a proper and correct mental approach when conducting the fact-finding investigation. The investigator is responsible for the outcome of the investigation. Some investigators believe they are inadequately educated and trained for these mental approaches, but still have to answer to the law enforcement agency.
5.      Stage Five: The law enforcement investigator needs to develop mental approaches which are based upon an evolving type of investigator who is trained and educated in specialized areas of investigations. They are superior to other investigators, are better trained and educated and demonstrate their expertise during the child sexual abuse investigations.

These five mental approaches provide a guideline to the law enforcement investigator when they set out to begin the investigation. As seen above there are different tasks which help the investigator be successful in their investigations of child sexual abuse allegations. Too often the investigator has little to no training which places them at a disadvantage in their roles and responsibilities as investigators.

The investigator must put in the effort to become better than what they are as a professional in the law enforcement community. The more specialized training and educating the investigator receives the more he/she will be valuable not only to the agency, but to the parties involved in the child sexual abuse investigation.  The investigator should be encouraged to develop a platform for other investigators to follow developing a program which will instill professionalism at all levels of a fact-finding mission for the truth.

It isn’t enough to just process an investigation by shooting from the hip. The mental approaches utilized come from a genius level of critical thinking. This specialized feature of the investigator comes from the initial mechanical training received at the police academy level. Investigators become specialized investigators because someone believed they had the talent to be a superior investigator.

Maybe the investigator took a written test and this put them in a position where when there is a future opening they will have the opportunity to become an investigator in a specialized unit. No longer is an investigator assigned to multiple units or divisions. The law enforcement protocol and process of the law enforcement investigator today is one who is specialized in a specific area.

If the future investigator understands that their commitment will be with the Special Assault Unit (SAU) the hierarchy should have established a mentorship and evaluation program in which the investigator can understand and apply themselves into this program.

The future investigators need to know what benefit the many mental approaches need to be if they are going to be an intelligent and competent investigator. Being given the Detective Shield doesn’t have anything to do if the investigator will be a poor or great investigator. It is up to the investigator to want the position they are in and value it as if it was last possession they have in this world.

Tomorrow, the research continues about the many attributes and characteristics there are in finding the correct and proper mental approach to utilize when given an investigation. As we have seen these past two days there is a wealth of opportunity for the investigator to choose from in this area. It is this culmination of information for the investigator to choose from which eventually makes a difference of how the investigation turns out. Today just an investigator, tomorrow a specialist which is what all investigators strive to be.


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