Today’s Investigative Special Report – December 7, 2012 “Dealing With Today’s Law Enforcement Specialized Investigations” Is Law Enforcement Investigative Methods and Techniques Antiquated or Just Playing Catch-Up?

By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc
Forensic Expert – Senior Author
Over the past four decades how to investigate an allegation of child sexual abuse has not been consistent in the manner in which other major crimes are handled. The reasons are very important to understand if law enforcement methods and techniques are antiquated or are they trying to play catch-up with the other criminal investigations?
Fans protest Michael Jackson's innocence in th...
Fans protest Michael Jackson's innocence in the child molestation scandal in 2004 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The investigative approach of what the roles and responsibilities of law enforcement investigators should be in child sexual abuse investigations has always been confusing. The confusion has been identified by many forensic investigative experts in the field of investigating child sexual abuse allegations over the past four decades.
The opinion of law enforcement investigators and other professional experts in the child sexual abuse industry is that law enforcement has bowed to the advocacy of protecting children who may have been sexually assaulted. The advocacy is not to be put to the side, but law enforcement investigators are not advocators, but investigators; you can be either one but not both.
When law enforcement officials have the mindset that they not only are investigators, but social workers as well, their thought process becomes a staple of incompetence and unintelligence.
Law enforcement officers can be sensitive to children who allegedly have been sexually or physically assaulted, but their main responsibility is to be professional and compartmentalize what they should be doing i.e. investigating, finding facts and evidence to identify if a crime was committed or not.
Instead of stepping up and investigating the sexual and physical assault allegations from the beginning to the end without interference from other individuals, professionals, and advocates the law enforcement management have failed to advocate for fact finding policies, procedures, and policies. As will become obvious management must develop a paradigm where the construct is one where the roles and responsibilities are delineated with precision and expertise.
Confusion And Ideologies
Where does the confusion and ideologies of what law enforcements process in recognizing who should do what has been paramount in the failures and success of the investigations performed to date? Four decades ago society acknowledged that child sexual and physical abuse was a major problem and needed to be aggressively addressed. The criminal justice system was not prepared for this new child abuse recognition and professionals from numerous fields did not assist law enforcement with understanding what their role and responsibilities would be. Moreover, law enforcement
Sent To The Back
The victim’s advocate’s individuals and groups simply shut the door on law enforcement officials and made them take a backseat in what they would and needed to do in child sexual assault investigations. There has never been a crime where law enforcement didn’t lead the way in performing any and all of the investigative duties of who will perform the interviews, especially the alleged child victim; creating investigative rules, procedures, and policies which law enforcement was to abide by. It is difficult to find the truth when the investigator is positioned in the back of the room trying to see over the shoulders of others.
The Current Process
Generally, complaints are made to the Department of Social Health Services (DSHS) or law enforcement officials that a child was sexually or physically assaulted. If DSHS receives the complaint they are to immediately inform law enforcement and if law enforcement receives the complaint they are to immediately inform DSHS. If the assault of the child involves a third party i.e. a stranger there may be no need for DSHS to be involved in.
The problem with the complaint process is the belief that DSHS is responsible to perform an investigation into the child assault allegations. DSHS have no law enforcement powers and cannot arrest the potential perpetrator. When it comes to removing the child DSHS has two options; they can obtain an administrative warrant to remove the child or request law enforcement to remove the child.
Among more than 1,400 adult females, childhood...
Among more than 1,400 adult females, childhood sexual abuse was associated with increased likelihood of drug dependence, alcohol dependence, and psychiatric disorders. The associations are expressed as odds ratios: for example, women who experienced nongenital sexual abuse in childhood were 2.93 times more likely to suffer drug dependence as adults than were women who were not abused. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Law enforcement must accompanying DSHS to serve the warrant and assist them in the removal of the child. There are circumstances where a law enforcement officer can remove the child if they believe that the child is physically or sexually at risk to be assaulted again or injured by the parties involved in the complaint. Further, if the perpetrator will not leave the premises or the mother or father is not protective of the child then the child can be removed.
Many aspects of DSHS involvement in the process of investigating child sexual and physical assault cases is the decision by the caseworker is to interview the alleged child victim without trained and specialized law enforcement investigators.
Most of the caseworkers are not trained forensic child sexual abuse interviewers. They do have the ability to perform the menial type interviews, but their ‘sole’ role is the protection of the child from sexual or physical abuse or neglect. Further, they have the responsibility to provide assistance to the family e.g. therapy, placements, and etc. Outside these roles DSHS needs to remove themselves from any interviews and investigations.
If law enforcement needs the assistance of any of the other professionals in the child sexual abuse industry then this is a decision the lead investigator will make at the appropriate and necessary time. DSHS generally does not digitally record their interviews with the alleged child victim. The problem with this is there is no documentation of:
·    What questions were asked and at what phase of the interview were the questions asked?
·    What were the exact questions asked and the exact answer of the child to those questions?
·    What was the manner in which the DSHS worker was able to identify the child’s use of their genitilia i.e. private parts and the child’s understanding of what each body part is and what bodily function is it used for?
·    Who was present during the child interview? Why was a specific individual involved in the interview and/or why wasn’t anyone allowed to observe the interview?
·    What anatomical props were utilized during the alleged sexual assault disclosures?
·     If the interview was not digitally or videotaped who took the notes during the child interview and where are those notes now? Many jurisdictions destroy their notes once they type their reports.

These are just some of the basic questions which law enforcement needs to obtain during the investigative process. The DSHS interview could have been the first interview of the child or the second, third, or fourth. Failure by the DSHS caseworker to ascertain who had previously been involved with the child needs to be addressed before moving forward if they determine they need to interview the child.
The prior disclosures by the child of allegedly being sexually or physically assaulted are vital for the caseworker to understand, what the child disclosed, and to whom. Otherwise, the caseworker may find themselves caught in the middle of mixed-disclosures or possible contamination by others who may have lead or suggested to the child in saying things about an event which was not true or accurate. If the caseworker steps into an investigative role then they must have the education and training necessary to conduct a child victim interview.
If DSHS caseworkers would have law enforcement present during contacts with families and the alleged victim where child sexual, physical, or neglect are the complaint, then there may be an opportunity that the alleged child victim’s disclosures may become immediately credible and reliable. Law enforcement generally digitally and videotapes all interviews with child witnesses, whereas stated above DSHS does not.
Regaining Control
DSHS is only one of the professional agencies in the social network in the child sexual abuse industry that may conflict with the needs of the law enforcement investigations. The needs of law enforcement must be paramount over any other professionals if the truth will be pursued and found. The other agencies except the medical examination of the child to make sure the victim is not physically injured need to step back and allow law enforcement to regain control and do what they do in every other type of criminal complaint.
The solutions to resolving just who is in charge of the interviews and investigations in child sexual and physical assaults are convoluted because the leaders in law enforcement have existed in the background failing to insert their competent and intelligent stance. As stated above there are no other criminal investigations where it is a requirement that all of these external professionals in the social network are required to be involved to obtain the truth.
Until law enforcement is able to perform the investigation into the allegations without outside interference, the journey for everyone involved specifically the alleged child victim and perpetrator, there will continue to be many ‘questions’ asked about the integrity and credibility of the allegations.
So which law enforcement leader will stand up and deal with the current process, procedure, and role and responsibilities they have been given by other external professionals? If a social worker came into a homicide scene and a child witness could tell the law enforcement officials what happened, would the detectives allow other professionals to do the interview of the child? Of course not!
Murder is seen as a greater crime than the rape of a child and this is where the criminal justice system has missed an opportunity to protect children from sexual and physical assaults and guarantee alleged perpetrators their Constitutional rights. Further, the alleged perpetrator should always, under all circumstances, when accused of a serious crime such as the rape of a child, deserve an objective and neutral investigation.  Arresting and prosecuting an individual for a crime they did not commit, should be afforded all the rights under the Constitution.
The need for law enforcement to be the leaders, not the followers, in the interviewing and investigations of those who commit crimes against children and those who are sometimes falsely accused is today. Unfortunately, for some time now the criminal justice system has lost sight of what is important when it comes to child sexual and physical assaults.
The bell has been rung and if law enforcement officials across this nation would speak out about why law enforcement must be in control of the investigation from the beginning until the end, then the credibility and reliability of the manner in which these types of cases are handled will ring loudly.
If no one in law enforcement understands what changes need to be made, then they will continue to work under an antiquated system and be placed in the position where they are always trying to catch-up. The failing criminal justice system can be turned around, but it will take a committee of experts and professionals who understand that law enforcement investigators are trained and educated in how to conduct any and all investigations competently and intelligently no matter what crime is being investigated and should be positioned where they need to be i.e. back to the front.

Lawrence W. Daly
Kent, WA

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