Today’s Investigative Special Report – October 15, 2012 “Dealing With Today’s Law Enforcement Specialized Investigations” “What Can Law Enforcement Do When A Sexual Assault Case Goes Sideways”

By Lawrence W. Daly
Forensic Expert Senior Author
English: This is a photograph of the Alabama C...
English: This is a photograph of the Alabama Criminal Justice Center, which houses the headquarters of the Alabama Department of Corrections and the Alabama Department of Public Safety (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The number of child sexual assaults, rapes, stranger sex crimes, and other types of sex crimes over the past 30 years has caused the criminal justice community to re-evaluate the manner in which they deal with allegations that a sex crime has occurred.
Due to the number of sex crimes reports there will be complex and confusing situations where law enforcement will have to reevaluate how they handle these special alleged crimes. There are many reasons why a basic to complex sex crime investigation may go sideways on law enforcement officials. The reasons need to be examined and analyzed in such a manner that the alleged victim is provided an honest, complete, thorough, intelligent, and competent investigation into the allegations.
Sometimes the victim who is at first willing to assist law enforcement officials and the prosecutor in pursuing criminal charges against the alleged perpetrator may decide to withdraw their initial complaint and refuse to cooperate with anyone in the criminal justice system.
Victims of stranger rapes generally want to pursue criminal charges against someone they never had met before nor had any relationship with prior to the rape.  The alleged victim’s assurance that the perpetrator was unknown to her and she did not consent to the sexual acts is probably the key if the individual will be prosecuted and imprisoned for committing such a heinous crime.
Law enforcement officials do not receive training on how to deal with problematic situations when it comes to victims and witnesses who change their testimony or no longer want to be a part of the investigation. The thought process by those who make the decision in what type of training the law enforcement officer receives comes generally from several individuals and agencies.
The law enforcement agency has to abide by a budget which has money for the training in their agency. The training area which receives the greatest amount of financial assistance generally deals with crime scene investigations, crisis management, profiling and dealing with perpetrators who commit major crimes, and so forth.
Dealing with uncooperative alleged victims and witnesses receives little to no recognition by the law enforcement agency that their officers need specific training in this area. The reason is they do not understand the ‘trickle down affect’ uncooperative victims and witnesses can cause for the community.
The training division in each law enforcement agency is responsible to create workshops and seminars which deal with the current demands and attention necessary to protect their officers, collection of evidence, and other popular subject matters. There is only so much money to go around. Therefore, the agency has to make yearly projections of the needs of the agency, what training fits into the immediate needs of the agency, and what may become a need in the future.
Understanding that there are problems associated with any investigation, the agency will encompass the difficulties alleged victims, and witnesses pose into a workshop on interviewing victims, witnesses, and perpetrators.  At the workshop the majority of the time will be expended on dealing with the investigation i.e. cooperative alleged victims, witnesses, gathering of physical, biological, and trace evidence, and etc.
If the law enforcement agency wants their law enforcement officials to assist alleged victims and witnesses with traumatic responses to the sex crime that was committed on them, then there must be training and education in this specific area for law enforcement officers. The attitude of some law enforcement officials may be, I have enough cases to investigate where the alleged victim and witnesses are willing to cooperate. Therefore, if this alleged victim doesn’t want to assist in the prosecution of the crime that was committed upon them, then the officer is not going to expend valuable time on babysitting the alleged victim in cooperating.
The problem with the officer who does not want to put the effort in dealing with an alleged victim who doesn’t want to cooperate, the officer needs to consider the negative fall-out which may occur if the alleged perpetrator is allowed to fall through the cracks. Let’s look at some of the negative fall-out scenarios:
1.      If the child is of an age e.g. 11 years and older that she will not participate in testifying against the perpetrator who is a family member, law enforcement and the prosecutor’s hands become tied. Therefore, without the alleged victim, there will be no one to describe the facts of the case to a judge or jury.
2.      If the child is of an age e.g. 11 years and older the alleged perpetrator may be released from being in custody leaving him to pursue new victims. The perpetrator while free from custody may change his method operandi and with confidence and knowledge of how to improve his approach to victimize another victim.
3.      Serial rapists may be in the community abducting, raping, hurting, and in some cases killing the alleged victims. If the victim or witnesses fail to assist law enforcement in the pursuit of identifying, apprehending, prosecuting, and sending him to prison may pose a threat to other women in the community. The alleged victim must remember that a serial rapist does not quit committing sex crimes voluntarily. Sometimes serial rapists are apprehended for some other crime and are imprisoned for a specific time; or they die; or they move out of the community; or they just stop committing the crime.
4.      The officer must understand the seriousness of a victim or witness failing to want to assist in the prosecution of the perpetrator causing a ‘trickle down affect’ which may release him into the community to continue his crime spree in the community. If the officer places the investigation on hold, placing the file in the inactive box, the perpetrator who may have been identified or could have been identified if the officer would have pursued the investigation may commit a sex crime on a child or adult, depending on the sexual preference of the perpetrator.
5.      The serial rapists for the most part will continue to commit his specific crime until he is identified, apprehended, prosecuted, and imprisoned. The method of operandi which the rapists use to sexually assault his victims may become more sophisticated in the manner in which he commits the crimes. The identification and apprehension may become difficult if he is not apprehended immediately. Most serial rapists are compulsive and impulsive in nature and obsessed with committing the sexual assault. Therefore, they will continue committing the crime, increasing the type of sex crime, possibly elevating the manner in how he uses specific force to commit the assault.
The need to increase awareness inside the law enforcement community about the seriousness of alleged victims and witnesses failing to assist in the identification, apprehension, and prosecution of individuals who molest and rape children, and commit sex crimes against adults. The above listed considerations are surface oriented and the training and education which is currently missing in the law enforcement community needs to be dealt with today.
Law enforcement agencies need to prioritize how to deal with difficult victims and witnesses. Most law enforcement officers need to know how to apply methods and techniques which will bring the victim or witness back to the center i.e. agreeing to assist in the identification and prosecution of the perpetrator. Although this area of training is rarely addressed law enforcement needs to be equipped with tools which provide successful and positive outcomes. Difficult victims and witnesses are a part of the investigative process and the officer needs to demonstrate patience, empathy, and provide time for the victim or witness to consider how their decision will affect the community.

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