1.03.2012

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

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Law Enforcement’s Mental Approach To
Child Sexual Abuse Investigations – Part VII
By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc

“No man suffers injustice without learning, vaguely but surely, what justice is”

When you think about the mental approach a law enforcement official will take in any given situation, there are many aspects to consider.  Generally speaking the reactive law enforcement official who is assigned to responding to calls relies upon his training, education and experience. If there is a situation that the official has been trained to respond in a specific manner, then the response will be automatic.

The law enforcement investigator takes a different approach in how to handle any given situation. The responsibility between the reactive official and the investigator is one reacts to any given situation and the investigator creates their situations.

As confusing as law enforcement roles and responsibilities appears over the years the system seems to work for the most part. Can there be changes made for law enforcement to be effective, more efficient; the answer is definitely yes? There is little training and education provided to law enforcement officials in the ‘mental approach’ aspect of their job.

Words have a power all their own
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If there is a need for training and education in the mental approach for law enforcement officials maybe there is a different name, which officials and investigators utilize. Instead of using the word mental approach maybe the word strategy would be more fitting; the word process would be more fitting; or the word procedure would be more fitting. If you were to interview a law enforcement official what words mental approach means to them, they could give a variety of responses.

The language law enforcement officials utilize can be dependent upon the situation in which they are confronted with. It seems that using an alternative word rather than ‘mental approach’ is mechanical and does not fit the situation.

In child sexual abuse investigations researchers and professionals in the field utilize the themes of policies, protocols, and procedures. These three words are developed around following a set of specific rules when interviewing a child victim; interviewing witnesses; collecting evidence; performing medical examinations; and dealing with sexual offenders.

The importance of distinguishing between a thought and an outline of “to dos and not to dos” can assist law enforcement officials in their approach of conducting a child sexual abuse investigation.

What is the process a law enforcement official utilizes when triggering a mental approach in any given situation? The first aspect of the process would be the need to think outside the box. Law enforcement is known for thinking within a box with no room for expansion. The official will find many benefits when they have the ability to expand the box. They will make a difference if they are creative and innovative in their mental approach to the investigation.

Critical thinking plays a major role in how the investigator will decide which mental approach to utilize. There are no clear lines drawn that states when using your mind, you have to think this way or that way. However, investigators have the opportunity to share amongst each other how they mentally approached a specific situation. An investigator may tell the other investigators in her specialized unit how she approached a witness who did not want to become involved in the criminal investigation. Her response to the situation made sense and the investigator will store this information for another day.

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Law enforcement investigators who can think through the facts of the investigation may be able to accomplish investigative tasks without much difficulty. Many times the investigator will weigh the many options available to them and after some deliberation and consideration chose what they hope is the correct and proper path. The investigator will not be right all the time. This is where education, training and their experience will assist them in making the correct and proper decision.

If you enjoy watching police television shows where the lead investigator uses the white board to write out their thoughts so they can see what information they have and don’t have. The use of the white board is a valuable tool for the investigator to use. Visually documenting what the investigator is thinking will assist the investigator in deciding what the next investigative step needs to be. Further, which investigator is going to assist with the investigation? The lead investigator will need other investigators to follow-up on leads e.g. conducting backgrounds on potential sexual offenders, conducting witnesses, analyzing evidence and so forth.

With assistance the lead investigator can produce theories about what took place during the commission of the crime. The mental approach the investigator takes at this stage of the investigation is to try and put the pieces of the puzzle together. This investigative step isn’t as easy as it seems as during the initial stages there will be little information to begin the investigation i.e. a given starting point.

Tomorrow, the decision to become productive will depend on what mental approaches the investigator will consider from the beginning of the investigation to the end. With assistance the investigator can expend time on considering theories and putting together the pieces of the puzzle. As we continue this series we will continue to review the many incidence(s) where a mental approach is a necessity.

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