1.23.2012

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

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By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc

“Every society gets the kind of criminal it deserves. What is equally true is that every community gets the kind of law enforcement it insists on”


There are many obstacles a law enforcement official will be presented with during their daily activities. In the world of law enforcement there are multiple roles and responsibilities the official will be faced with and have to deal with. There are no easy short-cuts; simple applications; a process which answers each and every investigative question; and sometimes the directions an official takes may cause a ripple effect which can’t be pulled back when the evaluation turns sour. The damage happens and there is nothing an official can do about it. Sometimes through trying to resolve conflicts a poor decision creates a negative result.

These conflicts for the most part can be dealt with and resolved by having the correct and proper mental approach. How does an official determine what mental approach will bring about positive and successful results? In reviewing the training and education being taught at the some 400+ police academies in the United States the intellectual aspects of mental approaches simply doesn’t exists.

So who teaches critical thinking to law enforcement officials? Who trains and educates law enforcement investigators on how to find the hypothesis which needs to be pursued? The answer will not surprise you. There is limited training and education available to investigators who have to make daily decisions about what to do when it comes to interviewing a child victim and/or witness who are involved in the child sexual assault allegations. There may be a different term for a mental approach. Maybe the strategy is there, but not labeled or titled mental approaches.

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If there is a different title for mental approaches how would a law enforcement official/investigator know how to utilize critical thinking? The issue may be as simple as articles such as this being written to draw out alternatives themes which have the basis to assist law enforcement with conflicts and investigations.

The new ideas which are produced when having the correct and proper mental approach is something which can assist the investigator in investigating a child sexual assault investigation. These ideas have the ability to bring about positive and successful results which may bring a balance to whether the sexual assault allegations are true or not. It is the sole responsibility of the law enforcement investigator to take to the field contact witnesses and ascertain what happened to the child victim.

The mental approach the investigator utilizes will allow the investigator to recognize the value of seeking multiple perspectives. The perspectives begin at the case assignment to the completion of the investigation. Hypothesis and/or perspectives will allow the investigator to deal with multiple situations during the investigation. Moreover, the ability for the investigator to ferret out the reliability and credibility of the perspectives may create a streamline situation which allows for the investigator to identify which mental approach will be most effective.

The investigator’s mental approach should be one where the investigator has the ability to develop processes and strategies to test the hypothesis the investigator developed and considered at the beginning of the investigation. The investigator needs to identify any aspect of the investigation which may draw them to move from neutral to bias and objective to subjective. If the investigator realizes this is occurring the investigator needs to take a step back and find a mental approach which will cause a re-set situation. There is nothing wrong with the investigator being human but the investigator needs to realize his/her role is to follow a fact-finding mission based on neutrality and objectivity. The investigator’s mental approach has to be where the mind-set is to accomplish goals which are based on the facts, testimony and evidence.

The investigator’s mental approach must be to utilize critical thinking skills which benefit the investigative process. The investigator should have the ability to utilize software applications which produce a different perspective than what written notes use to produce. In examining the information which has been inputted into a database it allows the investigator to manipulate the facts in the database to allow for different perspectives.

The necessary mental approach provides for an exciting and enjoyable investigation. The investigator is given the opportunity to conduct the investigation in such a fashion that the investigator will have a positive and constructive mind-set.

The investigator should be an experienced law enforcement official who has come across the value of eyewitness testimony. In understanding the value the investigator will identify where the problems are with such testimony. The 10% of child sexual assault investigations which are committed by strangers make it difficult for the child victim to provide information about the stranger sexual offender. Most of the time the stranger sexual offender will be larger and stronger and capable of positioning themselves where the child victim has limited viewpoints of what the stranger sexual offender looks like. There are several areas the investigator should explore with the child victim. These areas are the amount of time the child victim had with the stranger sexual offender; the salience of detail of the incident; the type of violence committed upon the child victim; post event information the child victim was exposed to; and other important details.

The mental approach the investigator should have when it comes to stranger sexual offenders is the incident of sexually assaulting the child victim is probably not the first time the offender has committed the act. Further, the investigation should begin, not with the current case, but with other cases which may have previously occurred. The mental approach must be open to any facts which may assist the investigator in identifying the stranger sexual offender in the present investigation.

Tomorrow, the need to review the research on stranger sexual offender is something which should be reviewed. Although these types of child sexual assaults do not occur very often, they do occur and the investigator must have the correct and proper mental approach to ignite the investigation. The critical thinking aspect of the mental approach the investigator utilizes will assist them in identifying other child sexual assaults the stranger sexual offender committed; how he/she committed it; and when and where the incidences took place. The software applications which can produce a different perspective for the investigator to consider should be utilized at all costs. The child victim has information to offer to the investigator but the investigator must have the mental approach which produces objective and neutral facts.























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