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

By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc

“Have you ever thought twice about lying to someone when you’ve been caught doing breaking the rules?  How did it turn out?”                                                                        Breanne Harris     

Questioning every aspect of the investigation is the heart of applying the correct and proper mental approach. Anyone can become an investigator. There are no rules or regulations which an individual who has become a member of a law enforcement specialized unit to follow. The law enforcement agency will have their internal protocols and procedures to keep their law enforcement officials following so they do not violate laws which they are hired to enforce.    

The reasons for external protocols and procedures is to have an effect on the internal protocols and procedures because the external child sexual assault investigations protocol and procedures should be based upon up to date research, a logical and reasonable systematic system which has been proven to be effective in the investigative field. It is not enough to allow the internal protocols and procedures to remain stagnant as this mental approach creates problems for law enforcement and eventually the prosecutor if the alleged sexual offender wants his/her day in court.

California Coalition Against Sexual Assault
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The internal and external protocols and procedures mental approach has to walk hand in hand and have the same meaning. The problem with this theory is it takes someone in the law enforcement Special Assault Unit (SAU) to know that changes have occurred in the field of child sexual assaults and there needs to be a review of the new research material now available from multiple resources.

The areas of child sexual assault allegations are very broad, thorough, creative and so forth. The law enforcement official must be able to take the new investigative research and apply it to the current written internal protocols and procedures. Further, training and education should be a requirement so all investigators and personnel understand the major changes which have been identified. There may be a need to bring in professional child sexual assault experts to explain what the new research means to the law enforcement investigators.

There are multiple methods and techniques and mental approaches in how to investigate an allegation of child sexual assaults. Who determines how the investigation are to be conducted should be based on a case by case basis. The effective investigator will more than likely have excellent investigative skills and abilities based on prior trainings, education and experience. These three attributes will assist the supervisor in knowing which investigator to assign the case to and the results most likely he/she will receive from the assignment. Moreover, the excellence and brilliance of the investigator comes from the ability to visualize each mental approach they will use in the investigation. Not all investigators have this ability. It takes intense training, common sense and the ability to read between the lines.

If the law enforcement investigator is to be proactive in an investigation the methods and techniques which he/she will apply will be based on the child sexual assault allegations. Not all investigations will be the same and there will be a need for the investigator to adjust their investigative skills to perform the investigations. Too often an inexperienced or a poor investigator will attempt to conduct investigations the same way they investigate their other cases. This is unwise for a multitude of reasons. Those reasons depend upon the facts of the investigations, interviews, evidence, legalities, search warrants and etc.

The mental approach must be a solid approach to an investigation which may have the makings of a false allegation. The problem with jumping to conclusions because of the child victim and witnesses being convincing in their presentation and testimony may find the investigator re-directing their investigation i.e. being persuaded, convinced, lead to drink from their well.

Too often investigators who attach their emotions to the investigation will find their decisions to be poor in judgment but also embarrassing when it is proven by the defense that the investigator’s hypothesis was based not on fact or evidence, but on a non-objective mental approach and little to no evidence. Although it is rare find limited or no evidence located at the child sexual assaults, the investigators needs to consider this when making a decision about the direction they will be taking the investigation.

The investigator can’t get involved with an investigative traffic jam. Too many accidents occur and due to the lack of being careful and cautious the investigator will find themselves entangled into a mess they should have never been involved in the first place. If the investigator would have had the correct and proper mental approach from the beginning the investigator would have found the investigation to be clear of any obstacles and/or damage. The credibility, validity and the credibility in the end is what the investigator brings to the prosecutor for the consideration of filing criminal charges.

If the investigator considers all of the mental approaches he/she may take during the investigation will propel the investigator into a situation where prior planning will prevent poor performances. The investigator needs to keep the case close to them and keep the issues tight. Bouncing all over the place will weaken the case and be a defense attorneys dream. It takes only a few mistakes by the investigator for a defense attorney to disseminate the criminal charges filed against their client.

Little is discussed about the role of the sexual offender and his/her role in the child sexual assault allegations. In an upcoming series on pedophiles, I will discuss just what they do in being accused of child sexual assault allegations. Most of them are intelligent and catching them is very difficult, they are manipulators and intimidators. If the investigator is going to be successful in the investigation they need to plan ahead for the day they will be presented with confronting the alleged sexual offender.

Tomorrow, the last article of this series will be written. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t more to discuss, but it is time to move to a different topic. As seen today, the need for the investigator to keep his/her act together from the beginning to the end will make the final decision if the sexual offender will be identified, located, apprehended and eventually incarcerated, if they committed the crime.

The new research which is being conducted in reference to child sexual assaults worldwide needs to be provided (the new research information) to the law enforcement investigators so they can utilize legitimate, valid and credible protocols and procedures. The mental approaches are plentiful as we have seen over the past couple weeks and investigators need to consider any and all of them in their plight to find the truth.


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