1.14.2012

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

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Image by Robbie Wroblewski via Flickr


By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it"- Aristotle, Greek philosopher
(384-322 BCE)

The capable investigator will internally establish a method and technique in which to think critically of every investigative scenario they are faced with. It isn’t the investigator who mechanically processes what investigative steps are necessary to accomplish specific tasks in the investigation no it is the investigator who has the ability to think beyond the obvious. These unique traits in which the investigator possesses makes the job of investigating child sexual abuse allegations a reality. In this mental realm, the investigator will be capable of pursuing the investigation from a new dimension where most investigators do not understand or are capable of going.

The training and education each investigator has the opportunity to receive is limited as the trainers have no idea what the necessity and function of a mental approach is. There is a need for a training investigator assigned within the Special Assault Unit (SAU). This assignment would consist of training all of the investigators in mental approaches and how to apply them; reevaluate them; and how to learn how to change them when it becomes obvious that the mental approaches to date are not providing any positive and successful results.

The training investigator needs to apply the three underlying strategies utilized in the critical thinking process. These three strategies are as follows:

1.      Reflection
a.      The investigator is taught how to utilize the mind in thinking what mental approach would be appropriate to use in any given investigative situation. The reflection aspect provides the investigator with the ability to stop and think, not making quick and unintelligent judgments, or accepting the first idea which enters the mind. Reflecting simply means that the investigator will slow down, review what they have and then concentrate on the apparent issues, never losing sight on what they have in the way of evidence and facts. Once they have reviewed the evidence and facts the reflection aspect should assist the investigator in gauging the proper and correct mental approach.
2.      Reasons
a.      The potential information about the child sexual abuse allegations will create questions the investigator will utilize when preparing for interviews with the alleged child victim and witnesses and the interrogation of the alleged sexual offender. The mental approach the investigator needs to be asking is “How do you know”, “What are the reasons?” and “Is that a good source of information?” The investigator needs to find the reasons why others have different viewpoints than the investigator. The correct and proper mental approach will assist the investigator in determining what fact is and what fiction is.
3.      Alternatives
a.      The mental approach an investigator must consider are the alternative hypothesis, conclusions, explanations, sources of evidence, points of view, plans, and so forth. The investigator should consider these characteristics when making a decision of how the investigation i.e. fact-finding process will find the truth. The more tools the investigator has available to him/her the quicker the investigation should come to a positive and successful conclusion.

According to Criticalthinking.net the acronym FRISCO can be of assistance when the investigator is determining the direction of the investigation. FRISCO is defined as:

 F for Focus: Identify or be clear about the main point, that is, the conclusion
 R for Reasons: Identify and evaluate the reasons
 I for Inference: Consider whether the reasons establish the conclusion, given the alternatives
 S for Situation: Pay attention to the situation
 C for Clarity: Make sure that the meanings are clear
 O for Overview: Review your entire appraisal as a unit

The acronym FRISCO demonstrates the possibilities that a law enforcement investigator has available to them. If the investigator can construct their investigation from a simple acronym this will streamline the investigative process. The following is an evaluation of the mental approaches an investigator can use, when applying FRISCO:

F: The mental approach is to identify what evidence and facts the investigator will consider in evaluating the strength and weaknesses of the investigation. The process is to make conclusion based upon the specific evidence and facts, not the outcome of the investigation. At this stage the investigator is determining the scale of justice and how it is balancing in the beginning of the investigation.
R: The mental approach should present the investigator with the ability to ask questions which explain the reason why specific events occurred prior to the investigator becoming involved. An example of this would be to ask the non-abusing parent why she didn’t call the police earlier. Another example is asking the patrol officer why she didn’t call the assigned investigator on his mobile to discuss the investigation. The examples are numerous and the investigator should consider why and why and why.
I: The mental approach is what I consider the second stage of the mental approach theory and that is to consider the alternative hypothesis and what conclusion the investigator came to prior to taking any steps in the child sexual abuse investigation.
S: The mental approach which should be considered is what does the situation tell the investigator about the evidence and facts. Further, can the investigator change the situation to benefit the investigation? An example would be the investigator examines the motivation behind the child sexual assault allegations and does not care for the explanation given by the alleged child victim. If the situation and explanation were different the allegations would be logical and reasonable and more believable.
C: The mental approach which should be considered is to make sure that all the parties involved clearly understand the position of the investigator in that his/her job is to be objective, neutral and non-bias. Further, he/she will keep everyone informed of the investigation when the time is right. The investigator must be clear that the role and responsibilities of the investigator is to perform a fact-finding investigation which will provide the investigator with the tools to find the truth.
O: The mental approach which needs to be considered is thinking through all of the direct testimony, reviewing all of the biological and physical evidence collected and analyzed, and any other piece of information which will make the investigator’s decision that a crime did or did not occur will complete the overview.

The numerous mental approaches provided to the law enforcement investigator to perform and manage their investigation continues to be remarkable. If the training and education in the field of investigations were to open the door to the type of investigative tool mental approaches brings to the table, than there would be additional child sexual assault cases closed in a positive and successful manner.

Tomorrow, the critical thinking aspect which plays a major role in learning how to employ a mental approach will continued to be discovered, uncovered and applied. The investigator who will take the time to train him/herself in the numerous mental approaches and scenarios in how to use them, then law enforcement investigations would significantly change.  The research reference mental approaches have just begun and we will continue examining and evaluating these present and future investigative needs.

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