Editors’ note: This article was published August 3, 2014, on The National Coalition for Men website.
In recent weeks and months, there has been a flurry of activity regarding the investigation of sexual assault allegations on college campuses, to be handled by administrators and student disciplinary boards.
That is probably the worst idea since the invention of the square wheel, and the clapper.
I speak from the perspective of having spent three decades in law enforcement and nearly two decades as an investigator. Not only are college tribunals unqualified to take on such as task, but many in law enforcement are not sufficiently trained as well.
Let’s take for example a typical law enforcement response to a sexual assault. The alleged victim calls the police to report a sexual assault. The investigation begins at that point. How was the call made: from where and who was present? Was the call made from a cell phone or hard-wired phone? If the call was made on a cell phone, the location of the cellular phone tower that transmitted or received the signal is important. Was the call made to a police department recorded line or did it come in through another method?
Then comes the first responder. Was the first responder a police officer, a paramedic, or is the reporting party a hospital? If it was a hospital, who called? Was it a clerical worker, nurse, or doctor? What was said to that person making the notification is important and must be clearly documented in any report. If a paramedic was the first on scene, does that paramedic have the knowledge or insight to make note of various things while attending to the medical needs of any potential victim? Would that paramedic have the insight to consider protecting evidence after first taking care of the medical needs of the alleged victim?
The point being is that there is a lot of information that has to be considered way before any law enforcement officer or emergency medical personnel arrives on the scene, and the subsequent investigation. Would any untrained college tribunal, consisting of an administrator, professor, or student disciplinary board even think of those things?
Now we have the initial or preliminary investigation by a first responder. In the cases where a suspect is outstanding, one of the first responder’s primary objectives is to determine if in fact a crime has been committed, or at least a strong indication that a crime has been committed, and to initiate a crime broadcast with as much information as possible so as to increase the chances that the apprehension of the suspect or suspects are increased.
This initial investigative step is also very critical, as an experienced and well-trained law enforcement officer can begin to make a determination if the alleged sexual assault is valid or if there are some warning signs or red flags that might indicate that it is not.
This is not specific to sexual assault allegations. The same type of scrutiny involves any crime: stolen car, burglary, stolen credit card. Contrary to popular belief, many people falsely report crimes, not just sexual assaults, although they rate up there near the top of false reports. As an example, here is a brief list of eight pages of false police reports in the Orlando, Florida, area: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/keyword/false-police-report.
If a first responder is going to initiate a crime broadcast detailing a crime—whatever crime that is: a sexual assault, a robbery, a bicycle theft—that first responder knows and is fully aware that other officers will begin looking for any suspect. If a person matching that description is located, there will later be a number of legal challenges to the initial detention as to the legalities and probable cause.
As you can see, even before we really get into specific facts about a report or allegation of a sexual assault, there is a tremendous amount of investigation, information, and many considerations to think about, just in the initial stage.
Does anyone believe that a college tribunal would even have the foresight to give those considerations any thought? And this is before the actual substance of the investigation is conducted.
The next stage would be the preliminary investigation by the first responder. If the agency is large enough or has the resources, a specially trained sex assault investigator would be called to handle the bulk of the investigation, as they should.
During my years as a first responder, I handled maybe a dozen cases of sexual assault, and maybe three were legitimate. I can honestly say that I would not be the most qualified person to investigate cases of sexual assault, as my expertise was in the area of gangs, narcotics, and homicide.
That initial investigative effort is critical in the investigative process. Not all first responders are uniquely qualified to handle such a task, and it doesn’t matter if it is a male or female first responder. The majority of the first responders are usually young, inexperienced, and in some cases insufficiently trained to properly handled preliminary investigations of cases of sexual assault. Some are good and others are not.
The subsequent investigation by the detective is yet another area that requires a tremendous amount of expertise and training. The California Sexual Assault Investigators Association (CSAIA) (http://www.csaia.org/index.aspis) is but one of many areas of law enforcement expertise.
Its mission statement states:
“The primary purpose of CSAIA is to provide high quality training in the fields of sexual assault prevention, detection, investigation, evidence collection and analysis, prosecution, victim services and support, incarceration and treatment of offenders, offender monitoring, as well as other closely related areas.
The CSAIA exists to promote and increase constructive relationships between investigators throughout the state and nation in order to aid the rapid dissemination of information, as well as to form contacts and liaisons to further assist in the apprehension of offenders and the effective investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases.
The CSAIA advocates effective relationships between investigators and members of related disciplines for the purpose of improving the team approach to cases to assure that victims receive the highest level of service and sensitivity and that offenders procure the maximum measure of the law.
The CSAIA encourages the ongoing development of progressive standards of training and qualifications for sexual assault investigators and members of related disciplines to assure the continuing improvement of effectiveness in the field.
The Association encourages and will actively support legislative changes, which promote the mission of the CSAIA.”
Look at the third paragraph above: “victims receive the highest level of service and sensitivity and that offenders procure the maximum measure of the law.” Do the hysterics who continue to advocate putting colleges in charge of a serious criminal investigation not understand those words?
The CSAIA also conducts “SART” (sexual assault response training) and in conjunction with medical disciplines has developed medical protocols for the investigation of sexual assault and child sexual abuse that provides for specific training for medical personnel. Those highly technical skills are absolutely essential for the proper handling of sexual assault investigations.
Does that sound like anything that a college administrator, history professor, or some pimply faced college sophomore taking “selfies” sitting on a disciplinary board can even fathom?
Then we come into the issue of probable cause, self-incrimination, constitutional rights, and due process that involves any potential suspect. We also have to consider forensic, biological, electronic, and transfer evidence that requires specific collection and preservation protocols.
Many in the general public are of the opinion that once you have DNA, then that is all you need to find the perpetrator. The truth is that DNA is just one of many components of evidence in the larger scheme of the investigation. Sadly, many law enforcement agencies allow sexual assault cases to just sit, waiting on DNA results, or the money to process any potential biological evidence. Many have just become too lazy or overburdened with workloads to go out and do “ground-pounding old-fashion police work.”
Then there are the legal challenges regarding the collection and processing of evidence, the nature of interviews, and the legalities of interrogations. A majority of criminal cases involve some type of legal challenge: pre-trial hearings, probable cause determinations, evidence exclusionary motions, scientific challenges to biological evidence, crime laboratory reliability, suggestibility of photographic line-ups, motions to quash or traverse search warrants, legalities of confessions and compliance with Miranda warnings, hearings to determine the reliability of witnesses or informants, and motions to dismiss.
There are and continue to be legal challenges regarding law enforcement’s use of “third parties” to extract or obtain information outside of the scope of “Miranda” warnings. Think of jailhouse informants. The police cannot simply just have a non-law enforcement person make contact with a potential suspect, and try to obtain incriminating evidence or a confession out of him in violation of his constitutional rights.
Currently, in Orange County, California, the death penalty sentence of mass murderer Scott Dekraai is being challenged (http://www.voiceofoc.org/countywide/county_government/article_a1712570-198a-11e4-a666-0019bb2963f4.html) due to the improper use of jailhouse informants. Dekraai, if you recall, went gonzo after his ex-wife continued to violate numerous court orders that prevented Dekraai from seeing his son. Nothing was done by the family court to intervene in the custody interference, so Dekraai went to the Seal Beach hair salon where his ex-wife worked and shot nine people and killed eight, including his ex.
Dekraai’s family law attorneys from the Long Beach law firm of Jarvis, Krieger & Sullivan (http://www.jarvislawyers.com/) immediately sought and obtained a court order to seal all records of Dekraai’s family law case (http://www.insidebayarea.com/california/ci_19182448). The only thing that can be derived from this is that the deplorable manner in which his family law case was handled drove him to commit mass murder, and no one wanted that scrutiny in one of the most egregious mass murder cases in Orange County history; otherwise, why the secrecy?
If all of those legal and scientific challenges have been met and satisfied, then the case proceeds to trial. Then there is the painstaking process of jury selection, and many of those prior legal and scientific challenges are discussed and challenged again, and then once again, motions to dismiss.
Does anyone still believe that ANY person sitting on any kind of college kangaroo court has the kind of training, experience, and know-how to properly and legally adjudicate anything other than a beer keg in a dorm room or a parking violation?
Sexual assault is a serious crime and one that requires the highest levels of knowledge, training, and experience. Asking a college tribunal to investigate the crime of sexual assault would be like asking a newly hired bank teller to investigate an international money-laundering operation.
It ain’t gonna happen, folks. In reality, college kangaroo courts can actually hurt valid criminal cases and, as we know now, expose the college to significant legal liability.
As an experienced investigator who has handled countless high-profile, murder, kidnapping, robbery, narcotic, and terrorism cases, the last thing that I wanted was for some second-rate amateur or “wannabe” cop or lawyer to screw up my investigation. For that matter, I don’t want a rookie cop doing something to screw up my case either, even though there is no intent but maybe just inexperience and lack of training.
Valid and legitimate sexual assault victims on college campuses—the 1 in approximately 5,400, not the 1 in 5 that the rape culture myth and hysteria promotes—deserve the most professional, legal, and scientific investigation possible, not a kangaroo court of ideologues and amateurs.
Keep allegations of sexual assault on college campuses out of college campuses, and let law enforcement and the legal system do what they are trained, paid, and mandated to do.