Evidence 101

EVIDENCE 101...Wherever you go, there you are...

Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Partner

With all the sorrow, comes a breeze of fresh air. I recently took on taking care of one of our retired police dogs. I consider myself his guardian. He is old and needed a home where he could be a focus...and afterall, he deserves it. He is the highest decorated police officer we had. He is making his way toward me right now climbing the stairs. I cringe because he has arthritis now and I think it is hard on him. But despite his pain, he still wants to be next to people and is determined to get where he wants to go. He is quite the loveable dog and has been so good. We are looking forward to having him be a part of our family until his time is up. If only everyone had heart like he does...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Losing Marcia

Losing one of your "own", a fellow officer, is very difficult. Even if you knew it was coming sooner or later. If officers die during active duty, they are usually always young. This time, again, it was a friend...a friend who was a very special person.

At a quick get-together before the holidays, some friends and I went to her house to have dinner. She was so excited that all her kids were coming for the holidays and she was preparing for that.

She was the mother of a military family...they were all in the military...she, herself was a Marine...and both her children are currently serving our country. Her husband was a retired Deputy Chief from our department and had been working as a police mentor in Iraq. She just welcomed into the family a beautiful granddaughter...all this going on in the final stages of cancer. She had been diagnosed with cancer and refused to give into it.

Her eyes sparkled when she showed us pictures of her family. I could see she was tired but so proud. She said she had told her husband it was time to come home...to quit his job and he had done so right away. When she said that, I knew she knew her time was near. Yet, all this time, all the chemo... she looked great and was full of life.

She fought long and hard and was so strong. We all admired that. She came to work in the office to help out with projects. She was always a very hard worker and plodding along on a new project after chemo was not uncommon. She was always very stoic right after chemo...oh, it was just another treatment. She showed those "young boys" what tough was all about.

In the early morning hours today, a medical call came across the radio. It was her call. I didn't know what was going on until I looked at the computer screen. Officers were already en route and by the time we were done with a traffic stop, I could hear the ambulance approaching the hospital on the return trip. I knew by the words in the call, her fight was over.

I went to the hospital and other officers were present. The hospital staff were stern and serious and looked down, not wanting to look at us with our tears streaming down our faces. They whizzed by the officers with tears guarding the room.

After an honor guard was set up, I thought about her as a person. She could not have been more honorable. She never said an unkind word. She never whined or complained. If she did, it was not in public, and no one knew about it. I could go on and on about all her achievements in life because she was amazing. She was a community pillar both before, during, and after her career as a police officer.

She always wanted to be a police officer and finally saw that dream at the age of 49. It was an honor to be her friend even if I only really knew her for a few years. I will always remember what she stood for and what a fine example she set. Most of all, I will remember that she was always kind and good.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Boogie Man Is My Friend

Awareness is a big weapon against predators. Know your child. The family structure and strength are key in a child's life. Be a better parent. Don't turn a blind eye that this will never happen to you. The criminals are better at being a predator than all of us are at being parents. Don't fool yourself.

Criminals look for opportunity and vulnerability-a key to kepp in mind. They can sense weakness. The "force field" cannot protect you or your kids. Knowledge is power. Hopefully, this piece will help parents kepp the "boogie man" at bay.

Heinous. Inconceivable. Won't happen to us. It isn't real. Only happens to poor people. They aren't in our neighborhood. I've thought all this myself. I became a detective who specialized in crimes against children. I looked evil right in the face. It happens. Everyday. Only, I found out deviance is minimized, covered up, and denied by society.

You still don't believe? I investigated child predators for a living. I know. Trust me. Let me be the first to educate you on society, juries, people...us.

"Kids lie, they can be coerced into saying these things because there is some underlying reason why they want to tell someone they were molested by 'Uncle John'. "They're coached". "Someone is mad at 'Uncle John' and wants him to get in trouble. Children are only harmed by strangers. Custody battles. Is this how you think? Yes. Because you don't want to believe. Because if you believe, we, as parents and society,have done something wrong. We should have been able to protect them.

Do you have your reality in check? Here is reality. Yes, kids tell the truth. Yes, kids can lie. How did soceity start disbelieving children? Why do we put so little into what they tell us? Is it because we really don't want to believe a child could be raped or molested? Or, is it because w have drilled into our heads that children are liars, storytellers? Or is it a matter of inconvenience? How about pride...what will the neighbors think?

That's what they count on...child predators...that you don't believe. That you think children are liars. And THEY are good at it. Convincing you. Experts, actually, at convincing you. They have a perfect explanation.

Do you know what is more frightening than not believing the children? Believing the story of the child predator. Adults believe them. Juries believe them. And, THEY...the child predators... count on it.

Acquittals are common. Even when there is DNA or enough evidence that a conviction should be swift. Juries didn't like the parents, the way someone spoke, lack of injuries, or something in the trial.

It broke my heart when a jury didn't believe. See, I would only charge the crimes I could prove, the ones I had probable cause and beyond...because labeling someone a child molestor is serious. I don't want to ruin an innocent person's reputation. I also didn't want to put a child through the trauma of testfying unless I could back them up with corroborating evidence or more. I didn't want it to be a he said, she said case. Society doesn't know that evidence and testimony can be excluded from trials for various reasons from rules of evidence to a Judge's poor decision to err on the side of caution.

So, for one reason or another, I lost one case. A good one. Then, I got better. I was persistent. Then my cases were plead out because THEY knew they were "toast" and they were caught. Because I had to bank on the fact that you don't believe. I had to become a better detective. I had to get more and more educated on criminal process, deviant behavior, interviewing/interrogation, corroborating evidence, and most of all...more knowledgeable about kids! And that was the best thing I did. Thank you, Jesus! Along came forensic interview training and certification. I was onboard. Not only onboard with the process, I got certified. Then forensic interviews were accepted...our saving grace. They helped with search warrants, therapy, confronting the predator.

But, society still doesn't understand. "Kids can lie in these interviews." "The kids are coached." Are you kidding me? Do you think cops are that stupid? That is what the forensic interview was designed for...to weed out the lies, the custody battles, and focus on the abused children. Please stop putting your head in the sand! When a forensic interview is conducted properly by trained individuals, I know when kids lie. I know when they are coached. I know when they tell the truth.

In fact, in most cases...the kids tell us the truth. The truth being they were molested, raped, groomed...all kinds of evil... or someone told them they were molested to get "daddy" in trouble. When children are coached or being used as a pawn in a custody battle...shame on the person who coached them. However, it is the rare occasion, not the norm. And they will tell the truth because, we, as society teach them to tell the truth.

You can find the truth. Usually if you have a false allegation, the allegation never gets disclosed to the forensic interviewer. It comes from someone that says there is a disclosure from the child. And the child supposedly disclosed to one person. The allegation is usually never repeated to anyone else and certainly not in the interview. Red flags? It should be. The child does not tell a disclosure in a properly conducted forensic interview when the allegations are false. Can I say that enough? You have to look at the underlying factors. Is there a divorce? What are the family dynamics? Guess what? The kids will tell you the truth. The adults lie. And when adults lie to use their child as a pawn...it adds to the reasons why you don't believe. And that is only a small part as to why society doesn't believe the children.

Do you really want to be scared? I have not had a small child (under the age of 9)lie about sexual assault. Sure, I have had teenagers lie...for one reason or another. Because they wanted attention, they wanted to get out of trouble with their parents...and if they were a victim-mom or dad wouldn't be so mad at them, etc. It still came out in the interview or follow up. And many teenagers told the truth..most of them. The liars and fabricators are not the norm. Once again, the interview and investigation revealed the underlying truths.

A forensic interview is designed to withdraw a truthful statement from a child. It has to be done by someone who is trained, certified, and practiced in child interviewing. I was lucky enough to have a partner that was the best in forensic interviewing...even deemed an expert in court. And we knew the truth in our investigations. We knew when a parent wanted to make and allegation against another parent to gain custody. We knew when a family member wanted to take away a child. We knew when the family wanted to cover up for another family member's wrongdoing. We knew when it was real or not real. And we couldn't even prosecute all the real cases. Not enough evidence. Not enough probable cause.

We investigated every caseas if it were a true allegation at the onset...but the evidence or lack of doesn't lie. And when people lied...we reprimanded them...hard. Because the system is to protect the innocent victims, not make mockery of them. Especially since molestation or rape of a child is a very serious crime.

In order to believe that these heinous things happen in our democratic world, you must have to understand the child. We have raised them to trust adults...and mostly they should. Let me show you why you must change your way of thinking.
Predators know what they are doing is wrong, yet it drives a basic need inside themselves...gratification and power. They like doing these acts with children, to children. They know society doesn't condone these acts, yet, they continue. They can't help it. Which brings us to the famous question in society asked in all sexual deviant cases...can they be rehabilitated? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!

Yes, it is true that some predators that are constantly watched and monitored in a structured judicial and therapeutic combination may not re-offend during the time they are on probation or parole. However, when the monitoring stops..the opportunity to re-offend goes up. Once the criminal realizes the watchful eyes are not upon them, the opportunities begin and are sometimes created by the criminal.

The old notion that this comes from an over-zealous sex drive has not been proven either. It is mental. This is hard to comprehend because many of the acts are physical acts. I can go places none of you have ever gone when I'm talking to a predator or I can listen to them to figure them out. Their mind would scare you.

Sometimes the criminal gets better at being a predator. Knowing what caught them before causes them to adapt, adjust, and learn what they can and can't get away with...but at the same time fulfilling that gratification and power they need. Are they sorry? Remorseful?...no, they are not. They will tell you and the jury they are...it's bullshit. It's what we want to hear, because we cannot fathom that someoone would like doing these things. Once again, society falls back into believing them.

First, you must have to put yourself in the justice process. Do you really think a child wants to testify? On the stand? In front of strangers? Staring at them?Do you believe they like to tell strangers what happened to them? Do you think it is normal for a small child to talk about sexual acts?What has been done to them? How can a child fabricate such details? Does it surprise you that I refer to the suspect as the attacker? Child predators are just that. They attack our innocent children.

Moving on to the emotional side. Do you understand that most often, the child victims have love or some type of affection for their attacker? You see, usually the person has befriended them. They don't initially know the acts are wrong and told by the attacker that "it is alright." It is not unusual that child victims want to protect their attacker. After all...they aren't the boogie man. No...the boogie man is their friend.

Some children act out sexually after being a victim to sexual abuse or assault. Do you know that, often, the victim even child enjoyed or liked the touching? Does that make you sick? It should. Not at the child, but at the person who took away their innocence.

It is worse for the child who has to come to grips with the fact that they enjoyed, physically, the act. However, emotionally, they are torn apart inside. Often, older children do not want to cooperate with an investigation when this emotional and physical conflict occurred. Because their body betrayed their mind. The predator knows these things. These cases are often...he said, she said. Victims random and victims planned.

What will you notice as a juror in court? The suspect will be dressed in nice clothes. No, he's not going to look like the boogie man. He might even be related to the victim. The defense might portray them as something they never were...nice haircut, shiny shoes, hard working. Or, maybe, the suspect reminds you of your own loving grandfather.

The victim might have been sexually active prior to the sexual assault (in teen cases.)Or worse, maybe you will see a seven year old telling you what was done to them by their neighbor, crying.

What you don't know is there are hundreds of cases that are dealt away...the bad person goes to jail and the victim begins healing. Yes, there are innocent people taken to trial in this world. However, an investigator should do their job. And if done well, the innocent people don't get there...to jail or trial. And, several get away because of one reason or another...lack of probable cause. Most often they get away. Society really disclaims the female predator. They are more rare than males, but they do exist.

What we do worse than disbelieve our children...is believe the predator. They can articulate what happened was a matter of misunderstanding, or the child had a crush, or whatever...You believe it. Because your neighbor, preacher, cousin, teacher, friend, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, etc. is trustworthy. And the reason sounds believeable. Besides, the boogie man wouldn't let you see the truth. They are good at deception, grooming children, and grooming the parents. And they are good at dismissing things and so are parents. Because it's easier. Most of the time the explanation makes sense.

The word "predator" in and of itself sounds evil. It is. A predator is evil. Remember that...always. The relationship you have with a predator cannot trump what she or she has done to a child. A predator grooms their victims...but first, they groom you, the parents. They may carry your groceries, watch your children when you are in a pinch, work for you, help you around the house, or date you, or any other acts of kindness to gain your trust. Perhaps they are the son of your best friend and are very polite. Now, yes, there are just those nice people in the world that do these things without molesting your children. That's why predators blend in.

This relationship is crucial for the betrayal to begin. "Grooming" is a common word used in these types of cases. Predators know grooming like you know the back of your hand. And sometimes, the hunt is more thrilling than the kill to them. They live it, they know it. This is all done in appropriate manners and avenues so that it won't catch you or the children off guard...and the child learns to love the predator. Yes, I said love. Children are truly God's gift...they love without strings attached. Something we learn as we get older, but children are purely love oriented. They want to be loved and they love no matter who hurts them.

It is not uncommon for a child to befriend and trust their attacker to the point that they love this person. Predators count on this behavior so taht the child will not tell. As a society, we don't like to get the ones we love or like in trouble. So, begins the child's struggle that we cannot comprehend. As adults, it is an easier concept for us to say "no" or to fight something or someone off we don't like. We have taught our children to respect adults, elders...most families still partake in this notion. And, I am not telling you to stop by any means. I am just telling you the process.

Some children don't know what is being done to them is wrong...a violation of their body, mind, and spirit. They trust the person attacking them and believe that person must be showing them something that is accepted. Especially this is true with little kids. They don't know any better. So, the child performs the acts demanded from the predator without hestitation or resistance. It saddens my heart to see children telling their story as "matter of fact" because they don't understand what had happened to them in the days, months, years prior during the times they were violated.

So, the acts begin, unnoticed for periods of time. What causes an act to be interrupted, stoped, or caught? Sometimes these acts go undetected for years until the victim becomes an adult. When a predator prefers smaller children, sometimes it ends when the child becomes a certain age...no longer desireable to him. Make you sick? It should. Other times, a child just tells someone, an act is witnessed by someone else, or schools/friends/family notice a behavioral change in the child. It could be a child acting out, being disruptive in class or at home. It could be a child acting out sexually with others or by themselves. Now mind you, some masturbation is normal...yes, I said normal. It could be a child who begins to emerge themselves in sexual intercourse very young. It could be a child withdrawing emotionally, grades slipping, wearing different clothes, etc. The list goes on. Yes, these same type of behaviors could be attributed to something else...a divorce in the family, a death, drug use, etc. So, as parents, when or if you see a change...PAY ATTENTION! Our kids are telling us something. Stand up and listen!

What is the worse case scenario if your child is a victim? He/she becomes a predator. We hear this often that a child was once a victim and then became a predator. It is true. I have seen it. It doesn't have to happen. It doesn't always happen. A lot depends on the healing environment and support system. Parents should not automatically believe this is going to happen.

If your child tells you something...listen...don't interrupt...don't be in a hurry. Then, if it is sexual assault...get them to law enforcement. Hopefully, you will never experience it. If it does happen, blame the predator, not your child.

How can we be better parents? Didn't your child come with an operating manual? Well, I don't have all the answers, but get involved in your child's life. Get to know them, be interested. Communication is big...good luck...and being a parent isn't easy...it's the hardest and most important job in the world!

So there you have it...my soapbox...a heavy and controversial subject. I'll step off now. Perhaps, something amusing or funny will happen at work...