Today’s Investigative Special Report August 16, 2012 “Dealing With Today’s Law Enforcement Specialized Investigations” “Does Law Enforcement Have A Plan For Investigating Sex Crimes?”

Lawrence W. Daly

During the past couple decades there have been some changes in the manner in which law enforcement approaches sexual assault investigations. The changes for the most part have been positive, necessary, and should have been made years ago. The advanced training which law enforcement officials are receiving from outside agencies have much to do with the creative, innovative, competent and intelligent aspects of the integral, nuances, and subtleties which is a part of sexual assault investigations.

The focus by law enforcement officials is how to approach and deal with multiple victims, witnesses, and perpetrators investigations. In dealing with one victim, witness, and perpetrator in a sexual assault case, the law enforcement official should be able to deal with a straight forward manner. It is when the numbers of victims, witnesses or perpetrators are increased when mistakes are made prior to, during, and after the allegations are allegedly investigated.

Prior to the investigation law enforcement can set the success rate of ascertaining the truth by being properly trained in all aspects of investigating sexual assaults. This would include understanding physical, trace, and biological evidence to interviewing victims to apprehending perpetrators. Preparation of how a sexual assault investigation should be performed competently and intelligently is a major element in the application of learning methods and techniques which work. Most law enforcement agencies do not understand the value that prior planning prevents poor performances.

The attitude of most law enforcement administrators is sexual assault investigations are no different than any other major investigation. Unfortunately, this attitude has caused many law enforcement agencies to be embarrassed instead of competent and intelligent when investigating these types of crimes. Moreover, with the declining economy the cost of outsourcing the education and training of specialized sex crimes can be a major burden on the agency as well as the finances are non-existent.

Too often the planning of having sexual assault investigators educated and trained is something the law enforcement agencies just do not understand the need for such a program. The mission and vision policies must include the necessity of having internal and external sexual assault training programs. If the senior law enforcement officials are trained and educated, then what should take place is a positive downward ripple effect.

Understanding on the job training i.e. being assigned to another type of investigation of crimes such as auto theft, fraud, computer crimes, and so forth should be a prerequisite for the potential official who may be assigned to the sexual assault crimes division. The value of on the job training should not be devalued as learning from experienced and educated senior investigators has a great value in the development of a new and inexperienced investigator.

The law enforcement official need not be put into a position where their first learning experience is sitting across the table from an alleged child sexual assault victim. This is a major mistake which takes place too often in many law enforcement agencies. The specialized training and education which is required in order to perform a competent and intelligent interview requires hours and hours of training, education, and experience. Everyday needs to be an educational day where the official learns something new and is able to apply this information into an investigation the official is currently investigating.

Too often law enforcement officials believe interviewing children is no different than interview individuals who are victims of another crime. The many sexual assault crimes where inexperienced law enforcement officials lead or suggested what might have occurred between the child and another individual has to be above reproach at all times during the interview and investigation.

Familiarity with key aspects of a sexual assault investigation is crucial to a successful outcome. Imagine being placed behind the wheel of an airplane with no knowledge of how to fly the airplane or how to turn the engine on. The results would be instant devastation not only to the pilot but to the passengers.

Investigating a sexual assault allegation is like flying a plane. If the law enforcement official doesn’t have a manual which trains and educates them in how to perform the investigation, the results would be similar to the novice pilot. Further, the responsibilities of the official will have a ripple effect which can be devastating to individuals who may have not committed the alleged crime.

Many efforts by law enforcement officials should be applauded, but sometimes unresolved issues raise questions about why aspects of the investigation were not conducted by the officials involved in the allegations. Unfortunately, although efforts create a result, some just aren’t reasonable and logical.

Law enforcement officials can positively change the lives of many if they perform a competent and intelligent investigation. Individuals who sexually assault children need to be pursued, apprehended, prosecuted, and most importantly incarcerated for the rest of their lives so they may never touch another child in any manner. However, many sexual offenders are allowed to be released back into society because law enforcement officials were not properly prepared, trained, or educated. In a blink of an eye one mistake by ill prepared, untrained, and uneducated law enforcement officials may allow a perpetrator to be released into society only to sexually assault another child.

The Jerry Sandusky victory for the criminal justice system is a powerful message to sexual offenders. This powerful message is those who sexually assault children will not be tolerated, and if you do sexually assault children, like Sandusky, you will be apprehended, prosecuted, and incarcerated for the rest of their lives. This should be an exciting turn of events for law enforcement officials who were involved in this case and for those working in the sexual assault investigative field. However, law enforcement need take notice, that it will only take one poorly investigated sexual assault case to not only move back to where things were, but to move investigations back decades.

After the sexual assault investigations have been thoroughly, completely, competently, and intelligently investigated law enforcement officials need to be open to any additional information which is identified and collected by the official which may prove or disprove the allegations. Just because an individual is charged with a crime does not mean that they committed the alleged crime.

Further, that once the public is made aware of the sexual assault allegations, law enforcement officials need to make sure contacts by other victims or witnesses may play an integral role in convicting or freeing an individual who has been accused of sexually assaulting children.

The decision to make a difference comes from an attitude by law enforcement that their role is to approach any allegation of sexual assault with a neutral, open-minded, sophisticated, diligent, energetic, and systematic ideology. There is no substitute for hard work by law enforcement officials who know their role in the criminal justice system.

Lawrence W. Daly           
Puyallup, WA

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