Enhancing Law Enforcement Responses to Crime Victims
John Firman, Raymond Rose  -  2012/6/20
http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ovcproviderforum
 
 
Hi, can you share with us your response to allegations of sexual assault? Please explain whether or not your response includes a team approach, identifying the members of the team and their roles, if applicable. Also appreciate your thougths about your experience of best practices in responding to victims of sexual assault.
 
1.  Firman
 For tools/resources, visit IACP website (www.theiacp.org)
 
2.  Firman
 SARTS are ongoing, formalized teams to promote continuous and effective collaboration.
 
3.  Matthew
 Are the SART's ad hoc or established teams within LE and what is the threshold for deploying a SART in response to a sexual assault?
 
4.  Firman
 For IACP tools and resources regarding sexual assault response including a roll-call training video, investigation strategies and supplemental report form, please click here
 
5.  Firman
 Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs), made up of law enforcement, legalprosecutors, medical personnel (including Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, if available), victim advocates, and additional professional community partners, are effective and beneficial to respond to and investigate crimes of sexual assault. SARTs can ensure that victims receive the thorough and appropriate services throughout the investigation and assist with victims needs. When SARTs are formed and the partners collaboratively work together, they can provide enhanced services to victims, build stronger cases, and better protect communities.
 
6.  Firman
 Investigations should include, but are not limited to, a strong written report including information regarding the collection of evidence, details from the victim and suspects account of the event that occurred, elements of the crime that occurred, the victims condition, documentation of lack of consent including fear, threats, or coercion, manifestations of trauma, a timeline reflecting pre and post assault behaviors of the victim and suspect, information gathered from a preliminary interview(s) and follow-up interview(s), corroborative evidence, and medical exams (both victim and suspect).
 
7.  Firman
 Unfortunately, all too often sexual assault investigations focus on the victims behavior; the focus needs to shift to the suspect. As with other crimes, the focus should be on the suspect and remain on the suspect, not on the victims character, behavior, or credibility. An effective investigation will concentrate on gathering as much evidence as possible on the suspect including conduct prior to and after the assault.
 
8.  Raymond Rose
 If the case results in criminal charges, the SA's office Victim Advocate is also included to continue a seamless transition for the victim as a case progresses in court. The primary case Investigator remains our police department's primary point of contact with the victim throughout the entire length of the case. We do not hand off a victim once the investigation is concluded and the case is now in the courts.
 
9.  Raymond Rose
 While MPD doesn't have a designated Sexual Assault investigative unit, we do employ a partnered response. All of our investigators, as well as several experienced officers, are trained in and have handled sexual assault cases. We partner with our local hospital ER staff and victims of sexual assault service provider to ensure each victim is treated professionally and with dignity.
 
10.  Firman
 All reports of sexual assault should be taken as valid and thoroughly investigated; officers should approach every case with an open mind and without making assumptions.It is vital that law enforcement understand that a victims reluctance or hesitation to participate in the investigation is neither indicative of a false report nor a reason to forego a thorough investigation.Law enforcements response and investigation to sexual assault victims needs to fair, balanced, and thorough. A victim-centered approach to the investigation will help to build rapport and trust.
 
 
Are there any trainings, either online or in person, that we can consider incorporating into our curriculum for new recruits?
 
1.  Carolyn
 I am taking Vatonline which is recognized Nationally. Illinois has a yearly State Victim Advocate 40 hr. Academy seen on Lisa Madigans web site. I havent finished it yet so I cant advise an opinion. The course is 40 hours includes activities.
 
2.  Raymond Rose
 The final piece was to develop training for Police Executives so that there is consistency throughout the organization. For more information and to see our training strategies, see the IACP website under Topics of Interest Victim Response. http://www.theiacp.org/PublicationsGuides/Projects/VictimResponse/tabid/312/Default.aspx
 
3.  Raymond Rose
 When developing the training to fit your department, you should consider partnering with your local victims services provides (hospitals, States Attorneys Office, Courts, Victim Advocates). We had these organizations come to our department and provide training for all police department employees. We also made this part of our FTO program and is covered with each new recruit and incorporated into yearly performance evaluations.
 
4.  Raymond Rose
 We sat down with Directors of all major training academies in Illinois and IL Training and Standards Board and developed curriculum enhancements that incorporated a proven response through every component of basic training. This should be available through the Illinois Training and Standards Board and the Police Training Institute in Champaign. Additionally, Maryland and New York State Police Academies implemented some of the curriculums into their training.
 
 
Is there a tool to assess how well LE respond to victims, so we can tell what skills we need or should improve?
 
1.  Firman
 yes-- best tool is a citizen/victim survey that's put out by the police to the community. Call Michael Rizzo at our office to discuss and get more info. 800-843-4227, x818.
 
 
What do you feel are the most important needs of victims that can be addressed by law enforcement?
 
1.  Raymond Rose
 Traditionally law enforcement treated victims as tools to gather information to arrest and prosecute offender. Victims want to be included and provided information. We had great success including victims in all processes of the criminal justice system. This mandated partnering with hospitals, States Attorneys Office, Judges, and Service Providers so that through every phase of the process, everyone knew what the next contact with the victim would and should be.
 
2.  Raymond Rose
 See the IACP website under Topics of Interest Victim Response -- 7 Critical Needs of Crime Victims. We developed a Victims Assistance Notification Form which listed all county resources available to help crime victims. This form is given to all crime victims and in all domestic violence cases, is forwarded to local domestic violence advocate within 24 hours for follow up.
 
3.  Firman
 For more info go to 'Responsetovictims.org'-- our website for our victims initiative.
 
4.  Firman
 We identify 7 critical needs: safety, support, information, access, continuity, voice, and justice-- cops can't provide all this, but they can be gateway to victims getting all of these needs met over time.
 
 
How does a law enforcement agency start engaging advocacy organizations in the local community to ensure a collaborative response to victims?
 
1.  Raymond Rose
 We were pleasantly surprised at the overall positive response we received from local victim service providers. We got rid of the us and them mentality. They invited us into their agency and we invited them into our police department so each agency could see what the other did. We put names with faces we reversed the traditional model of not talking or interacting with each other. Ultimately we were providing a dis-service to crime victims. By establishing partnerships, police officers were better informed on victim service agencies and therefore could refer victims to the proper agency to achieve a positive outcome.
 
2.  Firman
 Head to our victims program website-- 'responsetovictims.org' for more detailed information.
 
3.  Firman
 Best way is for the chief to host a meeeting of identified advocates and begin a dialogue on communicaton, coordination and how LE and advocates can support each other effectively to provide seamless service to victims.
 
 
In your experiences, what is often the biggest challenge in enhancing services to crime victims?
 
1.  Raymond Rose
 Breaking down the us versus them attitude between police and victim service providers. Also bringing a department-wide change in how we do business -- changing the department philosophy and attitude towards law enforcement's response to victims.
 
2.  Firman
 The department may truly be unaware of its lack of service, or disappointment of victims. Community surveys with focus on victim needs usually highlights the gaps/issues and gets departments motivated to improve. Competing priorities and downturn economy play roles as well.
 
 
Are there any police services who make the level and quality of assistance to victims a required component of an officer's professional advancement? If so, can you please describe?
 
1.  Firman
 Agencies that are implementing our victim response model (see 'Responsetovictims.org' for details) are looking at this- it's suggested strongly in our guide.
 
2.  Firman
 yes-- the agencies who have adopted our victim reponse moddel- 'Enhancing Law Enforcement's Response to Victims'. I'll send weblink shortly.
 
 
What do you see law enforcements role in the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) and who in law enforcement should attend the meetings (Chief, Sargent, Investigator, ectra..)?
 
1.  Firman
 Depending on department size, agencies can benefit from investigators, sergeants, andor other ranks particpating. Most effective for those responding to and investigating sexual assault crimes.
 
2.  Firman
 Sexual assault investigations can be enhanced by participation in a SART. SARTs build community collaboration and partnership to better serve victims.
 
 
Are there any trainings that you find helpful for a new vicitm witness coordinator?
 
1.  Carolyn
 you can start with the Vatonline training which is recognized by the National Office
 
2.  Firman
 I dont' have good, updated info. I'd suggest going to the US Department of Justice website and search on this- I know they run state of the art programs on the topic regularly.
 
 
Do you know of any law enforcement agencies that measure the success of a victim services unit to serve crime victims ... showing the before and after?
 
1.  Raymond Rose
 The departments that we have been involved with that would be the closest to giving you this information would be the Denver Police Department. However, we want to emphasize for this to be successful you don't need to have a victim service unit. Any department large or small can employ the response strategy found on the IACP website.
 
2.  Firman
 problem for most agencies is that they have to act quickly and on multiple fronts simultaneously. Only way good evalaution will happen is thru LE/university partnerships or local LE getting research $ thru private/public source. Collaboration with community partners is quick and good way to get feedback if not measurement.
 
 
Does your response to victims guide work for rural dept's as well. Is it expensive to implement? Does the site give guidance on grants anf funding to support the implementation?
 
1.  Raymond Rose
 There really is no cost to changing your response to victims. There is actually a cost savings when victims do not become re-victimized. Mundelein embraced the Police Response to Victims as the next logical step in community policing. It only makes sense that you would now start to look at how you are providing services by modifying your philosophy and attitude towards crime victims in general. By identifying our partners in our response to victims, we were able to receive free in-service training and suggestions on improving our approach to crime victims. There are intangible benefits that you cant attach a cost to in terms of a crime-reduction strategy and the positive affect on police-community relations.
 
2.  Firman
 the model works for any size or type agency. Implementation approaches will differ across size/type but core values/actions are same. Expensive? no-- more of a refocusing and prioritizing services that LE should be providing anyway! Money- OVC is always primary in support, but private sector (foundations) are equally valuable.
 
 
During the investigation of a crime, crime victims may encounter various personnel within a law enforcement agency, not just officers. Is there a movement to train all department employees in responding to victims of crime?
 
1.  Raymond Rose
 It is absolutely imperative to train all police department employees. A 9-1-1 dispatcher is often the first contact the victim has with your agency. If they are not on board their interaction could actually re-victimize the caller. Re-victimization is one of the biggest complaints from victims. Instead of seeing the police department (all members of the department) as there to help, each step of the process perpetuates the negative interaction. They lose trust, they are less likely to call again for assistance, they become more vulnerable to future victimization. For additional information refer to the IACP website under Victim Response strategy/implementation guide. It further stresses the importance of having a department-wide approach.
 
2.  Firman
 Per our national strategy, officers and all staff must all be on board and trained. see 'Responsetovictims.org' for more info.
 
 
We have finally got our victimwitness coordinator position based out of our County Attorney's Office. We are a small ommunity and do not have enough LE to base a similar position out of the department. How would you respond torefer to children of sexual assault that have not been contacted past the initial interview? Is there a website that can help walk me through talking to children that have been severely traumatized?
 
1.  Firman
 suggest you look to:National Center for Missing and Exploited Children; National Children's Alliance; Child Welfare League of America; and Georgetown Univrsity Center for Juvenile Justice Reform- all expert on topic.
 
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