1.21.2012

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



By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc

“It is wrong to have an ideal view of the world. That's where the mischief starts. That's where everything starts unraveling...” 

                                                                                                               V.S. Naipaul, Magic Seeds


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It is painful to have the ability to make changes in the future, only to realize that the choices you make will have a significant change on those you have contact with. Many law enforcement investigators have the power to either conduct a reliable and credible investigation or conduct an unproductive and weak investigation. The personality of the law enforcement investigator may determine the outcome of the investigation. Although the investigator has the ability to either document each and every aspect of the investigator or shoot from the hip, the mental approach will be the final outcome.

In all fairness there is a so much pressure upon the investigator to make the correct and proper decision, the investigation could go sideways quickly. This pressure may determine if the investigator has the common sense that their mental approach will place them in a positive or negative direction. These investigative directions are based upon the investigators training, education and experience in how to properly investigate a child sexual assault allegation.

The vehicle in which the investigator chooses to gather facts, information and evidence can shift the investigation towards proving or disproving the case. Too often the investigator’s mental approach lays the bases for decisions which are based upon emotion and not reasonable and logical investigative steps. The risk not to consider the totality of what the investigator has gathered may cause a negative impact on attempting to try to reach the truth.

Many investigators do not understand what a fact-finding truth seeking mental approach looks like. To institute the type of mental approaches to be utilize make it difficult for naïve and ignorant investigators. Failure to strive to isolate and identify the proper mental approach for a given aspect of the investigation will only bring questions to the reliability of these investigative steps.

How can child sexual assault investigators learn the mental approach processing if not provided the training and education when they are assigned to the Special Assault Unit (SAU)? How can the seasoned investigator teach the newly assigned investigator when no one has ever sent them to the training and education which doesn’t exist? The scenario is simple, the investigator is assigned to SAU and the training and education is basic. The training they are allowed to receive is the basic fundamentals investigation course, which teaches them the basic investigative interview techniques. These interview techniques vary from state to state and the preference is instructor designed.

The problem with the varying interview techniques varying from state to state is there is no consistency which makes it difficult to bring about unity nationwide in the law enforcement community. If there was uniformity in the law enforcement community on how investigative interviews should be conducted the closer to a national protocol would be a possibility.

These basic fundamentals also deal with how to interrogate child sexual assault offenders. There are many outside organizations which have professional programs which should be taught at the basic level i.e. police academies. Instead the state programs again are instructor based and the lack of consistency between states eliminates the national protocol possibilities.

There needs to be an evaluation and mentorship program at all law enforcement agencies no matter what size the law enforcement agency is. If the state offered such a program to law enforcement agencies, this would develop a coherent program that all agencies could instantly develop and apply to all law enforcement officials. The state generally has additional funds to create programs at the state level and then apply these programs at the city and county level. The cost of developing these types of programs should not be a reason not to have them available to the law enforcement agencies at the city and county level.

The many mental approaches which play a remarkable concern for law enforcement agencies is the manner in which their officials deal with different cultures. Just in the city of Renton, Washington there is approximately 83 different cultures the school district deals with on a daily basis. This huge range of cultures places a major resource problem on an economy which is being depleted by an economy which is not only suffering but diminishing on a daily basis. Simply there is no money and the training the law enforcement officials receive is minimal, if non-existent.

What mental approaches does the law enforcement agency teach their law enforcement officials?  What mental approach does the official apply to a culture which already doesn’t understand the main Caucasian culture, which is the main stay in the community where the law enforcement agency operates?

These questions presents a real challenge to everyone involved and in the many agencies in the city, county, state and federal government. The contacts these agencies have are not separate or alone in dealing with 83 different cultures. So when do these agencies have the time and resources to instruct and teach their employees on how to understand each culture and what role they play in dealing with all of these individuals?

Tomorrow, the need for training and educating law enforcement officials in all aspects of the mental approaches they utilize in child sexual assault investigations has never been in such a great demand. The first need in the law enforcement community is to teach law enforcement officials the value of how the proper mental approach which and when is applied can resolve conflicts and crimes. Once the official understands how to think through the mental approach this will be a step in the right direction.  There is so much to learn and little to no resources to teach law enforcement officials the necessary mental investigative approaches, which would make a difference.



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