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

By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc

Child abuse is a problem no one really talks about. Abuse and neglect is the number 1 cause of injury to children in the country. More children die of abuse or neglect than of natural causes”                                                                                               Donna Miller

Many times the law enforcement officials have to take their time slowly and methodically when conducting an investigation. The desire to find the mental approach which will bring about the maximum findings deals with a law enforcement official who cares about not only their job, but their community. The law enforcement investigator has to have the confidence in themselves before they take on the role and responsibility of being an investigator in a specialized unit e.g. Special Assault Unit (SAU). The demands of investigating crimes which are committed upon children are serious. A half-hearted effort won’t do the job.

If the investigator is going to achieve their goals they must pick up the pace and do the right thing every time. We live in a great country, but if we can’t protect our children, those who we eventually will have to rely on, then we are going to face Armageddon before its time. If these children are broken then we as a society will be broken and our longevity is doomed.

This article isn’t a speech it is a reality of the problems we are faced with when it comes to investigating allegations that someone may have sexually assaulted a child. If the skills, abilities, and leadership of the law enforcement investigator aren’t good enough, than the investigations won’t be good enough. Professionalism in the field of child sexual assaults is a must. The purpose has to be utilizing mental approaches which assist investigations which ferret out the garbage and develop methods and techniques which will bring the investigator closer to the truth.

The men and women who decide as law enforcement officials to aspire to be an investigator in SAU should be given the positive credit for their goals, future, and professional interests. It isn’t an easy assignment and the law enforcement agencies in which the officials work do little to make their jobs easy. The training and education is non-existent; the mentorship and leadership programs are not considered as a valuable tool by the administration; and the ever changing policies, protocols, and procedures make it difficult for the investigators to combat the defense of sexual offenders who can hire the right investigators, experts and defense counsel. The experience level of those men and women who work within SAU have limited to no experience and when they are put in front of a jury they appear to be incompetent and not intelligent.

The mental approach of law enforcement supervision in SAU needs to change. The men and women as investigators in the Unit need someone to protect them from being seen as untrained and hating men. The law enforcement agency needs to make available the necessary training and education in the field of child sexual assaults which will make a difference in the manner in which they handle their investigations.

There are organizations who offer specialized training in how to interview child victims, witnesses and sexual offenders. The cost of attending their workshops, seminars and conferences is reasonable, however, when you have a law enforcement agency that does nothing to establish a proper training program, then attending any of these trainings is viewed by the investigators as impossible to attend, even a one day workshop.

Somehow the investigators make due and those in the child sexual assault industry try to make a difference by providing the investigators with the up to date research materials. Moreover, they assist in the training of these investigators, asking little in return.

If the investigators don’t pursue excellence than excellence is something they will rarely accomplish. In order to reach these dreams and professional accomplishments, the investigator must think outside the box. An investigator who can critically think and put the pieces of the puzzle together will take a giant step in their ability to investigate complex and difficult cases.

The investigators need to step forward with the right mental approach and request assistance from his/her supervisor and his/her associates. I have written about this before that having a two investigator team to investigate child sexual assault allegations just isn’t going to happen, especially in the smaller agencies.

The facts are that manpower, training, education, and assistance from other divisions and units are something the investigators will live without. There can be no expectations that all of a sudden help will appear. These feelings of inadequacy will bother many of the investigators and definitely show up in their investigations.

The mental approaches are always present to apply and if the investigator is feeling trapped professionally, than they need to take a step back, contemplate, and meditate on why they originally took the assignment into SAU. The investigator understands there is no other Unit to transfer into. Being assigned to SAU is the stepping stone for working Homicide/Robbery; every law enforcement investigator’s professional dream. If you can work in SAU you definitely will shine in Homicide/Robbery. The skills to work SAU come from training, education and experience. Advancement for the investigator can’t move forward without having these three attributes.

I have come to the end of this series with this article. Mental approaches in child sexual assault cases have lead us through a series of opportunities for the law enforcement officials to learn how to apply them.  In review I could write a book on the mental approaches investigators in any investigative unit should utilize.

Many people will mistakenly confuse mental attitudes for mental approaches. This couldn’t be further from the truth. A mental approach is taking the investigations to levels the investigator has never imagined it could take them to. A mental attitude is just that, it deals with the attitude of the investigator.

Mental approaches deals with sophistication, going where no investigator has ever gone before. The mental approaches have to change with each investigation. The enjoyment of the job of being an SAU investigator is there as there is this internal drive which needs to assure successful and positive outcomes.

To you, the law enforcement investigator, take several steps forward and try the many mental approaches you can use to be the best you can be; at finding the truth.

To my general audience mental approaches can be applied in any personal or professional situation. God gave us the ability to see beyond what isn’t visibly present. So take a step into the unknown and consider the possibilities. Thomas Edison saw electricity, but it took him 2000 experiments before he could turn on the lights. Are you an Edison?

Join me tomorrow, in my new series titled, “Predator”.

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