Today’s Investigative Special Report – January 19, 2013 “Dealing With Todays Law Enforcement Specialized Investigations” “The “Fingerprints” Of A Child Sexual Assault Investigation – Part II”

English: A crime scene. .
English: A crime scene. . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc

Forensic Expert – Senior Author

The characteristics of a fingerprint and a child sexual assault investigation (CSAI) are similar in which they parallel one another in many of the facets which cause them to be so unique. When a crime scene technician (CST) is called to a crime scene to process the scene for evidence, it seems there is the possibility that the CST no matter how skilled will find difficulty in processing it. No matter what preventive steps an investigator takes to obtain the facts or evidence something may and generally confronted with an unexpected scenario.
In CSAI’s the same problem occurs, no matter how simple the investigation seems. The law enforcement detective will find barriers, barricades, and dead ends at some of the investigative avenues he has chosen to pursue. In fingerprinting, the finger has ridges which when processed are part of the fingerprint.
In the “Daly’s Twelve Investigative Characteristics” the sixth characteristic is labeled the “Ridge Units.” Ridge Units can effectively cause the District Detective to be confronted with specific problems which were not anticipated. Let us define what areas of concerns “Ridge Units” may have on the CSAI:
Characteristic Six – Ridge Units - The District Detective will find that the child sexual assault investigation is not a smooth and clear investigation. Like fingerprints no finger is without a ridge. It is just how biologically the human finger is created.
1.      Sometimes the case will run into roadblocks the District Detective didn't consider in his initial alternative hypothesis
2.      Sometimes there will be unexplained barriers which block the investigation before it is allowed to begin i.e. the child discloses and then later refuses to cooperate or recants her story
3.      Sometimes there will be those who intentionally convolute the investigation by refusing to cooperate with the District Detective
4.      Sometimes these ridges will require the District Detective to be intelligent and logical in his investigative approach to the case
5.      Sometimes these ridges will require the District Detective to step back and reevaluate specifically how the sexual assault disclosure was developed, what role each witness played in the investigation, and maybe just maybe the perpetrator is telling him the truth

The third characteristic is generally performed after the District Detective and his assistant arrive at the crime scene. Generally the District Detective will ask for the assistance of Crime Scene Technicians (CST). The call will be made to the individual who is in charge of the CST’s and depending on the type of crime one or more CST’s will be requested to respond to the crime scene to process it.
In child sexual assault cases the crime scene may be in multiple locations. The incidences could have occurred near the child victim’s home, school, at her home, at the perpetrator’s business, at the perpetrator’s home, and so forth. Studies and professionals opinions on the subject of obtaining of physical, biological, and trace evidence are generally not located at the crime scene where the incident took place. These studies have failed to address the specific issue of ‘why these types of evidence’ is not located. Let us examine some of the reasons that evidence is not located in child sexual assault cases:
1.      The education and training of First Responders and detectives simply does not happen. Law enforcement management and those in the Special Assault Unit (SAU) are of the opinion that the child sexual assaults occurred a long time ago, therefore CST’s should not be called to the scene. These professionals come to a conclusion which is based on subjective beliefs, which when examined, evaluated, and analyzed prove not to be of substance.
2.      The First Responders and detectives do not ask the complainant or child victim about where the specific location of the sexual assault took place and if the perpetrator used any article of clothing or towels during the sexual assault.
3.      The interrogation of the perpetrator should provide the detective information of where the specific location(s) of where the sexual assault(s) occurred and what was the clothing and towel items were used and where are they now.
4.      Information is provided to the First Responder and the detective of the specific location where the sexual assault(s) occurred, but fail to process the scene for semen, saliva, fingerprints, and so forth. In rape cases the bedding and clothing are always taken. However, in child sexual assault cases emphasis on obtaining evidence is overlooked. Due to the lack of effort the studies would conclude that no evidence was located. If you don’t ask, you will not find it.
When this author was a detective in SAU, the child victim disclosed that the perpetrator who later confirmed the information, that after the sexual assault he would hide the towel he used to wipe himself off. He would hide the towel in the attic above the master bedroom. When I searched the residence I was able to locate multiple towels in similar locations. There was semen and saliva found on the towel belonging to the perpetrator. If I would have failed to ask the child victim and perpetrator the right questions about evidence, the towel would have never been located. Locating evidence in a criminal investigation can and will lead the detective to consider a solid hypothesis i.e. evidence speaks for itself.
Characteristic Three - The District Detective releases the crime scene to the Crime Scene Technicians (CST)

1.      CST will determine if the perimeter around the crime scene is large enough and will prevent others from entering and potentially contaminating the scene
2.      CST will videotape the entire crime scene prior to processing it
3.      CST will then begin the process of identifying, photographing, and the protection of the evidence
4.      CST will begin collecting the evidence
5.      CST will transport the evidence to the evidence room for storage or to the State Laboratory for analyzation
6.      CST will notify District Detective of his findings and turn the evidence over to him

The District Detective, First Responder, and Crime Scene Technicians must have a working relationship which is structured around protocols and procedures which most of the time produce results. In reviewing the sixth and third characteristic of “Daly’s Twelve Investigative Characteristics” it is best law enforcement understand that the twelve are similar to other facts and evidence of any type of sexual assault. The problem with any investigation is to be too structured. If there are no alternative solutions or flexibility at a crime scene to possibly obtain evidence, then the personnel who are responsible to perform their specific tasks are of no value to the investigation.
Law enforcement will generally face controversy, emotion, conflict, barriers, barricades, problems, and etc. in child sexual assault cases. Everyone has an opinion about how the investigation should be performed and what the outcome should be. If law enforcement is thorough and complete and approach the investigation with an open and neutral mind, the outcome will be based on objective findings. These findings will quite those whose opinions differ then theirs when the evidence and facts speaks loudly that what the detective found during the investigation was the truth.

Lawrence W. Daly
Kent, WA

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