Wednesday, September 24, 2014

DIY Investigation Gone Wrong!




A quick search of the internet can result in numerous tips on how to fix, repair or build things on your own – DIY. There are even entire websites dedicated to avid 'do-it-yourselfers'.
However, some issues should be left to the professionals. Complex investigations are one. Especially when it involves school kids and sexual assault.

A school district in Alabama is facing a lawsuit after setting up a 14-year old girl to catch a suspected rapist. The girl, described as a special needs student, complained to teachers about advances made by another student. The male student had a long history of complaints, but the school had not been able to prove the allegations.
The girl was told to pretend to go along with the male and that teachers would be hidden nearby and intervene and catch him red-handed. However, the male took the girl to a different location, in another part of the school. She tried to stall, but eventually was raped by the male.
From the news story, this was a horrible event, largely because it should never have happened. Worse, the suspect was not prosecuted as the victim would not talk about the attack. There was clear evidence of injury, but the responding police officer did not pursue the case as there was no way to tell if it was consensual or not without her statement.  
So what are the lessons learned?
1.     Never put the victim or a potential victim in harm’s way. This ‘set up’ was not well planned and there was no contingency for things going wrong and in real life, things do go wrong. Always have a back-up plan. A trained police officer going into this type of situation, such as pretending to be a prostitute, would have had back-up plans, microphones and been under supervision from back-up from beginning to end of the investigation.
2.    Understand the legal system. The way the news article describes the incident, the girl was instructed to go along with the suspect. His legal argument would then be that he thought his actions were with a consenting partner and even though ‘caught in the act’ there would have been no criminal charges.
3.    Look at alternatives. The faculty was so desperate to substantiate claims against the suspect; it seems no one stopped to think about how else that could have been done. Substantiating a complaint could have been done through witness interviews. Interviewers should have looked for inconsistencies in the suspect’s story, as one example.
4.    Include professionals. Local police should have been involved in the investigation. If police were reluctant, then the school could have brought in trained investigators or run the investigation plan past the local police.
DIY may be a great way to approach home repairs, but it is too risky when it comes to putting schoolchildren in harm’s way.

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