Law Enforcement Innovation During COVID-19
Our team recently participated in a webinar hosted by End Violence International, taking a deeper look at how law enforcement is handling victim interviews during COVID and including them in the process and adhering to their rights.
As our country faces the effects of COVID-19, professionals across the nation have implemented new measures to continue performing their job duties. It became paramount to law enforcement that for handling crimes to continue they needed to devise a safe way to conduct interviews with victims. “Trauma informed, victim-centered practices should be the foundation for an interview of any format,” says Lieutenant Andrea Mumford and with victim-centered practices in consideration, it was crucial that law enforcement included victim advocates in the development of this virtual process.
It was vital for law enforcement and victim advocates to consider the issues that might arise before implementing the use of a virtual meeting software. These issues included the importance of all parties being in a safe and private environment for the meeting, all parties were made aware of the virtual interview being recorded, and the potential barriers that were unique to each victim. These barriers consisted of accessibility issues, limited technology, education or language divide, and socioeconomic concerns. The plan focused on building rapport with the victim virtually; creating a fall back plan, such as a three-way call; the victim was given resources needed, such as an interpreter; ensured the victim knew they could take breaks throughout the process, while also allowing the advocate and victim a chance to discuss privately after the interview was conducted.
COVID-19 has forced us into a new way of thinking and we have seen in many ways that what was done in the past might not be what we need to continue for the future. We have seen the measures taken to create victim-centered practices for virtual interviews, now this same attention is needed towards giving victims' rights at an equal level as the accused. As COVID-19 cases decline and old ways are implemented once again, our effort remains working towards elevating crime victims’ rights to the state constitution. We hope that law enforcement and victim services continue being openminded to new ways to better our criminal justice system.
Marsy's Law for Iowa Advocacy Coordinator