"Police officers do not receive adequate training to prepare them to handle child sexual abuse investigations"

Lawrence W. Daly, MSc

ABSTRACT: Police officers do not receive adequate training to prepare them to handle child sexual abuse investigations.  This is true not only for patrol officers, but also for those assigned to child protection units.  In this study, 250 police academies responded to a questionnaire regarding their typical police training.  The responses indicated that officers receive training in investigations, interviewing, and interrogation, but that this training only prepared them for generalized areas of duty.  Respondents also reported that the majority of state authorities did not mandate specialized training for child sexual abuse investigations.


Since 1960, the number of reported incidents of child abuse in the United States has jumped from 150,000 to 2.9 million assaults per year (National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, 1993).  Of these incidents, 17% (500,000) involved sexual abuse.  As researchers throughout the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union continue to study the dynamics involved in the investigation of these cases, one clear conviction continues to emerge: specialized training is essential to the successful investigation and prosecution of sexual crimes against children (Lieb, Berliner & Toth, 1997; Hammond & Lanning, 2001; McBride, 1996).  Advocates of this training typically agree that it should take place separately from the basic education offered through police academies or in initial inter-department training (Lieb et aI., 1997).  Lanning & Hazelwood (1988) do recommend, however, that specialist training should occur before officers begin investigating child sexual abuse.

Several specific areas should be targeted during advanced training for child sexual abuse (CSA) investigations.  McBride (1996) suggests that these include: forensic interviewing, collection of crucial evidence (e.g. clothing of victim and/or perpetrator, pornographic items belonging to perpetrator), and the importance of medical evidence  Additional research indicates that effective child protection training should also focus on suspect interrogation (Hammond & Lanning, 2001) and perpetrator detection and prosecution (Hughes, Parker & Gallagher, 1996).  An early child protection training model (Stone, Tyler, & Mead, 1984) also offered police with training about managing their personal reactions to child sexual abuse, dynamics of both extra-familial and interfamilial child abuse, the importance of objectives, and sensitive interviewing.  This model seems to have been designed to aid officers in becoming more aware of their personal feelings regarding abuse in order to help them develop a more empathetic approach to victims.

Of all specialized training areas, instruction about the forensic interview is generally viewed as the most significant need.  This training should cover a variety of key issues including: child sexual abuse dynamics (McBride, 1996), child memory and suggestibility (Lieb et aI, 1997; McBride, 1996), human development with a special emphasis on children (McBride, 1996), the sexual abuse disclosure process (McBride, 1996), and interview techniques (Lieb et al., 1997), particularly regarding the use of non-leading questions and interview aids, building rapport, distinguishing between fact and fantasy, discussion of "private parts", and preparing the child for a spontaneous disclosure (McBride, 1996).  Lieb et al. (1997) and Davies, Marshall and Robertson (1998) also found that the opportunity to conduct practice interviews is an essential part of any interview training for officers who are assigned to CSA investigations.

Gaensslen and Lee (2001) asked police to identify the top five factors that determined the successful investigation of sexual assaults.  Officers identified physical evidence linking suspect and victim as the most important and also cited statements made by victims and suspects, crime scene processing, and the credibility of victims, witnesses and suspects.  While much of the current literature focuses on forensic interviewing, Lieb et al. (1997) contend, "Training about interviewing should occur in the context of training about the overall investigation.  While the forensic interview with a child in a suspected sexual abuse case is almost always the key evidence, by no means is it the only evidence.  Investigations should begin, not end, with the forensic interview."  The report goes on to recommend that information obtained in the interview be utilized in the ongoing investigation and collection of evidence.  Walsh (1993) concurs, stating that child abuse investigators need to employ many of the same skills that are necessary in regular police work including the use of search warrants, surveillance, one-party consent telephone calls and pro-active investigations.

Research also shows that specialized training in child abuse investigations should not be limited to law enforcement alone (McBride, 1996).  In a time when police are moving toward a multi-disciplinary treatment of child sexual abuse, social service intake workers, mental health providers, attorneys, judges, victim advocates, and medical doctors all would benefit from advanced training regarding a wide variety of issues involved in child protection, as well as specialized training regarding working together to achieve the best results for children (McBride, 1996).  It has been suggested (Hammond & Lanning, 2001; McBride, 1996) that the multi-disciplinary approach (a variety of organizations working together to investigate and prosecute child sexual abuse in addition to providing victim support) is the most logical and effective method for dealing with every aspect of child sex crimes.  As noted by Hammond and Lanning (2001), "Child abuse is a community problem.  No single agency has the training, manpower, resources, or legal mandate to intervene effectively in child abuse cases.  No one agency has the sole responsibility for dealing with abused children."

Police Training in the United States

Law enforcement personnel in the United States typically receive an average of 402 hours of training in a police academy followed by approximately 141 hours of field training (Reaves, 1990).  The amount of training officers receive before commencing their initial policing duties varies from agency to agency, as does the amount of specialist training for investigation of child sexual abuse, thereby making it difficult to gain a clear picture of exactly how prepared officers are on a nationwide scale.  Concerns have been expressed (Lyon, 1995) that the training that is available to officers investigating CSA, particularly relating to child interviews, may be inadequate at best and counterproductive at worst.  Lyon also indicates that some of training given to child interviewers may encourage suggestive questioning rather than helping to prevent it.

Legislation varies from state to state making it difficult for the researcher to obtain a clear picture of the actual level of training provided to officers.  State of Washington law dictates that all officers who are assigned to child sexual abuse units must be given the opportunity to receive advanced training (RCW 43.101.224).  Officers who attend the training are able to practice their interviewing skills in order to improve them.  In other states, however, the current research found that child protection officers are denied recertification if they do not receive refresher training during pre-established time frames.  Variations in law and practice are not limited to the state level only. Lieb, et al. (1997) found that differences exist at county levels also.

Research conducted by McBride (1996) examined the effectiveness of interview training given to officers over an eight-hour time frame.  Officers were able to retain information but indicated a need to receive training over longer periods of time (suggestions ranged from two to four days).  Officers also reported the need to practice their new skills in training sessions.  McBride found several deficiencies in officer interview skills where further training was necessary.  These included: rapport building, fact versus fantasy, and discussion of private parts.  Officers also exhibited a strong tendency to use interview styles that were appropriate for interrogation but not for child interviews due to a lack of sensitivity.

Police Training in the United Kingdom

Concerns have also been expressed in the United Kingdom (U.K.) that officers do not receive adequate training to prepare them to conduct forensic investigations into allegations of child sexual abuse once their initial training has been completed (Training Standards: Action is Needed Now, 1999).  This view was shared by police officers (19%) and social workers (32%) in an earlier survey (Home Office, 1992) and in a 1996 study (Hughes et al.), but the ongoing concern indicates that little has been done to address the Issue.

Officers questioned reported that their initial probationary training was satisfactory, but that subsequent training was insufficient to keep them updated about new legislation and operational developments in police work.  This was particularly true for officers in specialist units, who felt that advanced training opportunities were "too little and too late" (Training Standards: Action is Needed Now, 1999).

Though not all agencies maintained a child protection unit, a 1998 study (Davies, et al.) found that 92 percent of those surveyed did have a specific team of officers assigned to child protection.  The remaining 8 percent had a fully trained officer on staff that was assigned to CSA investigations and was equipped to handle child interviews.

As in the United States, police forces in the U.K. show a wide variance with respect to amount and length of training, including refresher training for officers assigned to child protection units (Davies, et al., 1998).  Their study found that officers entering the child protection unit received an average of five to ten days of initial training.  Further probes found a few departments offering less training and a few offering more.  Generally, the study found that course content determined the length of the training, indicating that those officers who had received longer training were more equipped to investigate child sexual assault allegations than those who did not.  Davies et al. also found that the training format varied, with some officers being trained in one intensive session while others were trained in a modular approach with a series of less intensive sessions.  All of the law enforcement agencies examined in the study utilized a combination of lectures, case studies, and practical exercises in officer training.  The training also provided students with the opportunity to practice their interviewing skills through role-play (Davies et al., 1998).  Both police and social service personnel provided training in some of the agencies studied, while the Area Child Protection Committee (ACPC) conducted training programs for other agencies.  Training covered a wide range of topics including child development, interviewing, interagency working, the law, abusers, investigations, and working with families of the victims.  Initial training for child protection duty also included information regarding evidence, forensic issues, medical signs of abuse, taking statements and the investigation of network abuse (Davies et al., 1998).

Child development training discussed such topics as memory and recall, child competency, age appropriate sexual behavior, rights of children, dynamics of child abuse, myths and realities, cognitive development, and development in children with special needs (Davies et al., 1998), though not all of these issues were addressed in every course.  Officers expressed concerns, highlighted in an earlier study, (Hughes et al., 1996) that they were not given enough information in the area of child development, suggesting that input from a child psychologist could be helpful.  Officers cited some of their difficulties as asking age-appropriate questions and addressing a child's undeveloped concept of time (Davies et al., 1998).

Davies et al. (1998) found that all officers interviewed in their study received training on child interviewing, but investigators in an earlier study (Hughes et aI., 1996) reported that they had received no training in child interviewing.  As with all other aspects of the training, Davies et al. (1998) found that the instruction investigators received varied slightly from force to force, but generally officers were trained regarding video interviewing (both technical aspects and evidence protocol), the phased interview, preparing and planning for interviews and post interview procedures.  Officers expressed concern that they did not receive adequate training to prepare them for the actual "how to" of interviewing and questioning techniques, though all of the courses studied offered some form of practice session for investigators to hone their interviewing skills.  These opportunities ranged from role-play sessions to working with hired actors.  Some officers were also allowed to witness interviews conducted by more experienced investigators (Davies et al., 1998).

The advent of PEACE training (acronym for elements of proper interviewing: planning and preparation, engage and explain, account, closure, and evaluate) in the 1990s, provided officers with instruction regarding how to conduct interviews using elements from two interviewing models: the cognitive interview and conversation management (Milne & Bull, 2001).  PEACE is designed for use in multiple areas of interviewing and investigators can use the model for interviews with victims, witnesses, and suspects (Milne & Bull, 1999).  Evaluation of officers after PEACE training had been completed, however, concluded that officers showed little or no improvement in interviewing skills, particularly with regard to victim and witness interviews.  Milne and Bull (2001) suggest that this may be related to several factors including the inability of officers to utilize and process all of the information taught and the failure to adapt and modify various elements introduced in training in order to successfully interview in a variety of situations.

Different findings were reported in two studies that questioned police about training regarding perpetrators and their behavior.  Officers reported to Hughes et al. (1996) that they had been given very little training regarding perpetrators.  They cited their primary source of knowledge as "practice wisdom" that had developed through experience, but also expressed concerns that this knowledge might be unreliable and inaccurate.  Investigators identified a need to learn about the social characteristics of child sexual abusers in addition to information about their other characteristics.  Hughes et al. also found that officers wished to be educated regarding the influence of different personality types, different social classes and backgrounds, and different employment or professional backgrounds and how these factors influenced perpetrators in abusing.  This knowledge would also extend to an understanding of the methods used by perpetrators in avoiding responsibility for their crimes through fantasy, denial, or other forms of rationalization.  Finally, officers expressed the need for knowledge about the grooming and selection methods used by child abusers and the process by which they convince their victims to remain silent.  In contrast, 67% of departments in a 1998 study by Davies et al. reported that child protection officers received training about offender profiling and sex offending behavior.  Investigators in the Hughes study (Hughes et al., 1996) also expressed feelings that they were extremely ill equipped to handle perpetrator interviews.

Another deficiency cited by Hughes et al. (1996) was the lack of training to prepare officers to properly investigate complex or multiple-victim, multiple-offender (MVMO) cases.  Such cases often require a more multi-disciplinary approach and involve a much larger task force to successfully investigate all allegations properly.  The study also found that CSA investigators did not receive adequate training in the more basic aspects of investigating, including the performance of house searches and the gathering of evidence (Hughes et al., 1996).  Officers reported that they were often overlooked or ignored for this type of training.

Though the majority of agencies studied expressed a desire to provide refresher training to update officers on new developments, few actually did so (Davies et aI., 1998).  One possible solution was being tested that would offer police a three-day course every two years in order to update child protection officers regarding new advances in the field and refresh their earlier training.  This refresher course also required officers to provide videotapes of interviews they had conducted in order for a critical assessment to be performed (Davies et al., 1998).  Officers in the Hughes study (Hughes et al., 1996) stated that child protection units were often overlooked when new research, policies, protocols, and techniques were disseminated to other specialized police units, and felt this was due to a general belief among management that such issues were irrelevant to CSA investigations.

Both Davies et al. (1998) and Hughes et al. (1996) received very positive feedback from officers who were questioned about the possibility of a national training standard.  The possibility of accrediting individual officers garnered little support (Davies et al., 1998), but accreditation of institutions and specific training courses received a much more positive response.  It has been suggested that U.K. officers might benefit from the development of a Police University (Training Standards: Action is Needed Now, 1999).

Factors Contributing to Inadequate Training

Researchers cite a variety of factors that augment a lack of advanced training among officers assigned to CSA investigations. Guyot (1991), Maguire (1993), and Hughes et al. (1996) advance the position that the law enforcement profession is not fully professionalized.  This perceived lack of professionalization refers to the less stringent educational requirements that remain prevalent among the majority of law enforcement agencies.  As discussed above, most officers in the United States complete an average of 402 hours of training through a police academy and then supplement this training with approximately 141 hours of field training (Reaves, 1990).  Those entering the law enforcement community are frequently allowed to do so with far less educational background than that which is required in fields of similar responsibility.  Professionals in law, medicine, social work, and mental health services (the central figures in child protection) receive both general and specialized education at the college level prior to entering the field in which they work, with a 4-year degree being the minimum requirement.  In contrast, 10% of all local police departments will hire new recruits without requiring a high school diploma (Reaves, 1990).  2% of local police departments require officer recruits to receive minimal college training, 4% call for a two-year degree, and a 4-year degree is required by fewer than 1% of all agencies (Reaves, 1990).  Officers assigned to special investigative units may be offered specialized training, but this training is not always utilized.  For example, in the State of Washington, the law requires the Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC) to provide officers with the opportunity to receive training about the investigation and prosecution of child sex crimes, but does not mandate that officers attend the training (Lieb et al., 1997).

This lack of professionalization, according to Maguire (1993), can also be evidenced by the comparatively small amount of scholarly, abuse-related literature that is produced by members of the law enforcement community.  The publications that have been generated typically discuss general topics without reference to previous research or without adding new insights, though this trend is not universal.  Even when scholarly literature is made available to police, there is doubt that officers read it (Maguire, 1993).  Maguire's criticism of police professionalism, though valid, does not produce concurrence among all professionals.  In a 1993 report by Walsh, he finds that "law enforcement practitioners primarily learn their skills not through reading professional journals but by formal and on the job training."  According to Walsh, the nature of police work is consistent with a more direct, yet formal, training approach which would include "recruit training, in-service training, outside seminars and site-visits to other departments."  He concludes that the most effective training occurs when experienced senior officers and supervisors train those with less experience.

Another concern cited by Maguire (1993) is the apparent lack of any national organizational structure within law enforcement that could serve to facilitate the changes necessary to bring training to an adequate standard.  The United States in particular seems to present significant challenges due to its unstructured organization.  Mastrofski (1990) noted that American policing trends were more inclined toward localized, decentralized, and fragmented leadership structures, saying that this system "inhibits the implementation of purposive, top-down, system-wide change."  In his 1993 report, Maguire agrees with this analysis, stating, "Personnel policies, together with the widespread fragmentation of agencies, serve as an impediment to the implementation of large-scale change in American policing, thus hindering enhanced professionalization in CSA cases."  Such changes would require a commitment to steady progress as experience and research uncover more effective methods that could be utilized by officers responsible for the investigation of sex crimes against children.

As new research becomes available it is crucial that it be integrated into current policing protocol, an advance that can only be assured by the implementation of a national standard among existing police agencies.  Walsh (1993), however, cites a serious concern that must be addressed if such a standard were to be beneficial, rather than detrimental.  He comments, "There is no master blueprint for law enforcement agencies, nor should there be.  Each of the more than 1600 municipal, county and state agencies are a product of the resources, needs and the priorities of the communities that they serve."  While this is true, it should not prevent the law enforcement community from pursuing national standardization of policies and procedures regarding mandatory specialized training for officers in the child protection area.  The author feels that such a consideration should guide rather than hinder researchers in developing a standard that would consistently address the needs of a wide variety of agencies while raising the bar in the area of training.  Another study (Davies et al., 1998) recognized the value of local initiative, citing that readiness to experiment with new innovations or methods provided a healthy influence on police practices between departments, but maintained the need for established national guidelines for police training still exists.  Without national standards for training in child assault investigations, police will experience "gross variability in the way cases are investigated and interviews conducted, with resulting discrepancies in submission rates to the CPS and consequent differences in outcome at court" (Davies et al., 1998).  Officers in the U.K. expressed overwhelming support (84% of those interviewed) for the establishment of a national curriculum for officers in child protection units (Davies et al., 1998).  The same study presented a variety of advantages to police from such a standard, including: "consistency of practice across police forces; more uniform levels of service to children alleging abuse; greater ease of transfer of staff between different forces; enhanced status for child protection, bringing it into line with other specialized areas of police work; and, greater credibility of officers when giving evidence in court."

A study by Reiss (1990) found that on a nationwide average less than 1% of funding in police budgets was allocated for research and development.  Without this crucial evolution in practice and understanding, law enforcement cannot hope to improve its service to the community.  From the author's perspective, this lack of commitment to research and development indicates a more serious problem within the law enforcement community: reluctance to change.  Mastrofski (1990) found that police generally have a strong dislike for outside interference in the performance of duty.  In the study, officers reported their feeling that the general public, including researchers and scholars of criminal justice, remains uninformed as to what police actually do.  This conviction is directly responsible for their criticism of recommendations made by researchers that officers feel would not be effective if implemented in a real world setting (Mastrofski, 1990).  Mastrofski noted this resistance to change on both an individual and organizational level.  As individuals, officers seemed reluctant to branch off from a group mentality and exhibited a commitment to "preserve traditional values, structures, and practices, and whose orientation makes them reluctant to embrace change in general" (Mastrofski, 1990).  Resistance to change, it is suggested, is the most crucial issue that the contemporary police administrator must face (Tafoya,
1990).  One possible solution is suggested by Maguire (1993): "If we can show the police that a specific training program will enable them to respond more effectively to victims, or that a particular investigative technique will improve their chances of obtaining a conviction in court, we can promote progress in their response to child sexual abuse."  Walsh (1993) seems to agree, stating that practical results should be emphasized by agencies that wish to effectively train officers regarding child sexual abuse.  It would appear that the burden of proof lies primarily with researchers who desire to see changes in the standard practices of investigators in child protection units.

Guyot (1991) found that departmental hiring practices might also contribute to the problem.  Due to the relative non-existence of lateral transfers, agencies tend to become in-bred in training and practice, failing to advance or benefit from the knowledge and experience that officers trained in other agencies could provide.  Though Walsh (1993) agrees that the absence of change initiated by lateral transfers is a reality, he asserts that this does not significantly impact departmental response to the investigation of child sexual abuse.

Another significant factor presents itself in U.K. research.  Officers assigned to work in child abuse units report that officers working in other areas of policing generally view child protection as a "cushy number" (Hughes et al., 1996) or "the baby-sitting squad" (Davies et al., 1998).  Officers typically report that the police community considers child protection to be lower in status and importance than other police work and expressing their belief that child sexual assault is not a serious crime (Lieb, et al, 1997, Willis & Wells, 1988).  Other officers rarely recognize the level of skill required for work in child abuse investigations (Hughes et al., 1996), a fact that clearly has bearing on the importance attached to training.  Unfortunately, this attitude seems to pervade police management as well as the general officer groups (Hughes et al,

Perhaps the most significant factor that currently prevents the child sexual abuse investigator from receiving adequate training is limited financial resources.  While larger departments are able to allocate more funding for advanced training, smaller departments must often "make do" with whatever skills they are able to develop in their initial training.  In 1990, Reaves found just over 12,000 local police departments operating in the United States.  Of these, only 222 (less than 2%) served communities with a population larger than 100,000.  Fully 90% (11,000) of all departments were responsible for populations of 25,000 or fewer (Reaves, 1990).  This clearly presents a problem when funding is needed for operational costs and salaries before training issues can be addressed.  Advocates for specialized training in child protection must also recognize the training needs presented by other specialist units in law enforcement (Davies et al., 1998).  The costs of specialized training are often exorbitant and beyond the reach of smaller agency budgets.  An examination of training opportunities in the State of Washington demonstrates this.  Lieb et al. (1997) found that costs for ongoing training ranged from $5,800 to as much as $20,000.  In addition, agencies must provide resources to cover officers' transportation, per diem, and lodging (Lieb et al., (1997).  The Children's Justice Act [42 US. C. 5106c] seeks to defray some of the costs by subsidizing police training through grants.  Designed to provide training that specifically addresses child abuse, these grants are helpful, but not adequate.  Also, records indicate that funding dropped from $217,000 in 1994 to $193,000 in 1996 (Lieb et al., 1997).  Overall, Lieb and her colleagues found that professionals "have had limited opportunities for training in effective investigative and interviewing techniques."


A questionnaire was developed in order to determine the level of training that police officers receive regarding child sexual abuse.  Questionnaires were sent to 611 police academies based on a list obtained through Internet research.  250 responses were received.  The questionnaire was designed to be self-administered and questioned respondents about both general and specialized training received by police recruits and experienced officers.  Respondents were provided with pre-addressed, stamped envelopes.


Officers in the study were asked whether or not their police academy trained recruits in basic interviewing techniques.  94% of respondents (241) affirmed that recruits did receive this training while 3.5% (9) indicated that they did not.

Officers were then asked whether recruits received training in basic interrogation techniques while attending police academy.  A fairly significant difference emerged in comparison to interview training with 221 respondents (86%) indicating that interrogation training was given at the academy and 22 respondents (8.5%) answering that it was not.  Only one respondent (0.3%) stated that they did not know for certain.

When asked if state or federal laws required academies to instruct recruits regarding fundamental aspects of CSA investigations, only 108 (47%) replied that such regulations existed, while 118 (52%) indicated that they did not.  One positive note surfaced, however, when 88% (213) of respondents indicated that their recruits were given basic instruction on investigating allegations of CSA.  Further information revealed that of the 118 academies not under legislation requiring this training, 93 (79%) provided it in the absence of such regulations.  This finding is promising, indicating that training facilities recognize the need for such training without a legal requirement.

Less promising, however, were findings in training provided to established officers.  Respondents were asked whether regulations existed which would require officers to receive ongoing general training.  180 academies (75%) said that these regulations did exist while 57 (24%) said that they did not.  In contrast, respondents were asked regarding any mandatory supplementary CSA training for officers.  Only 21 % (49) said that they were under any type of regulation with 77% (183) responding in the negative.  Among those who indicated that ongoing training was mandatory, eleven respondents (22%) said that this was only required for officers in the sexual assault unit.  One respondent replied that this training was mandatory for officers desiring to receive a higher level of certification while another respondent indicated that refresher training was only necessary for officers who had experienced a break of service.  This trend reveals an alarming lack of attention to the needs of officers assigned to child protection work.


The findings of the present research reflect a picture that is less than hopeful for the future of child sexual abuse investigations.  While the majority of officer recruits do receive training for CSA investigations, this training is generally minimal and occupies comparatively few hours in the overall training structure at the police academy.  This is a concern to the author for several reasons, primarily because it is frequently the minimally trained patrol officer who first encounters the child alleging the abuse, with only 14% of child abuse complaint calls being dispatched to specialists (Martin & Besharov, 1991).

A lack of substantial training for the general officer population does not factor as significantly in more densely populated areas because most have trained child protection teams, but officers in small and rural communities are far from properly equipped to conduct an investigation that encompasses the variety of special needs present in CSA cases.  Localities with fewer civilians maintain much smaller forces.  Detectives in these areas do not generally specialize in child abuse investigations and often one officer carries the sole responsibility for all criminal investigations in the area (Lieb et al, 1997).  These forces account for 90% of law enforcement agencies in the United States (Reaves, 1990).  Larger communities evince much more promising numbers with 93% providing "rookies" with some type of training in child abuse investigations and 92% maintaining at least one specialist specifically designated for CSA cases (Martin & Besharov, 1991).  64% of the forces also provided patrol officers with in-service child abuse training and 63% maintained written child abuse and neglect policies.  Unfortunately, Martin and Besharov found that this training remained minimal with only 37% of agencies providing more than 40 hours of training for specialists.

Even greater concerns emerge when the author considers the training provided for officers conducting interviews with alleged victims.  A wide variety of issues must be addressed if the interviewer is to obtain a reliable statement from children.  These include: establishing rapport, listening actively, encouraging the child to recall information with minimal prompting from the interviewer, using open-ended questions, proper use of follow-up questions, obtaining detailed descriptions, helping the child to recreate the original context of the abuse and proper adherence to established protocol (Lieb et al., 1997).  Officers also need to be provided with detailed instruction on child memory including its weaknesses and strengths and the emotional, social, and cognitive forces that factor into the amount, type and detail of information provided by the child (Lieb et al., 1997).  Without this knowledge a detective lacks the necessary base of knowledge from which to examine a child's disclosure.  Though the current study found that 94% of officer recruits do receive basic interviewing training at the academy, this does not adequately address the special needs represented in CSA investigations.

It has been documented (Lieb et al., 1997, Willis & Wells, 1988) that CSA cases frequently carry a lesser status in the law enforcement community than other crimes.  This is again substantiated by the findings of the current study.  Three quarters of all established officers received mandatory supplementary training in general areas of policing.  In contrast, only 21% were required to train for CSA investigations.  Some respondents indicated that this training was even further excluded from the general officer population due to laws requiring it only for officers specially assigned.  This reflects a lack of serious concern among legislators and law enforcement management.  Ignorance of this type presents a substantial hindrance to advance in the amount and type of training officers receive when performing their duty.

This study is, by no means, a comprehensive one.  Further research detailing the number of hours recruits and officers typically receive during CSA training as well as the topics discussed would be beneficial.

The author feels that system-wide change is long overdue.  National protocols must be established that will impact the training and practice of all police agencies.  Funding challenges must be addressed and the cost of training modified in order to ensure that agencies with smaller budgets have equal access to the information necessary to conducting complete CSA investigations.  The most powerful changes in policing only occur when officers are provided with training and education based on current research that initiates a change in performance (Pagon, 1996).  If training does not impact the way in which officers perform their duty and interact with the public, it becomes irrelevant.  It is training that ensures that the quality of policing provided to our society remains of the highest standard (Frost, 1996).  Federal regulations need to be put in place that will address both initial and refresher training received by officers.  This research has demonstrated that the present system is not working and that departments and states fail to recognize the importance of acting without mandatory training.


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