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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Andrew Cuomo
WILLIAMSVILLE — An online training course for law enforcement officials is designed to improve the initial response to child abuse allegations.

The training, announced today by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, is aimed to help officers better identity, understand and investigate child abuse causes to enhance prosecution and reduce trauma to victims. The free online training is developed by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services in conjunction with the New York State Children’s Alliance, and is being offered to reach as many officers as possible across the state.

“By equipping first responders with the training necessary to better identify and investigate suspected cases of child abuse, we are building on our commitment to protect New York’s children," Gov. Cuomo said. "This administration will continue to do everything it can to help victims of this heinous crime and keep our children out of harm’s way.”

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said, "Child abuse cases are some of the most complex and challenging incidents that law enforcement investigate. Often, there is no physical evidence to corroborate a child's disclosure and the perpetrator is someone the child knows. These and other unique circumstances illustrate why this training is so important. I encourage law enforcement agencies across the state to take advantage of this new resource."

In 2013, more than 150,000 child maltreatment investigations were launched during the same year. And last year, the state’s 40 Child Advocacy Centers provided services to more than 18,500 children. The vast majority of those children – 95 percent – were victimized by someone they knew.

The Children’s Alliance is a statewide organization representing 40 Child Advocacy Centers across New York State. Child Advocacy Centers are child-friendly settings where multidisciplinary teams composed of law enforcement and child protective services professionals, prosecutors, medical and mental health providers and victim advocates work in partnership with center staff to respond to allegations of child abuse. The collaborative approach is designed to reduce the trauma experienced by child victims.

Joined by law enforcement professionals from Western New York, Lieutenant Governor Hochul, Michael C. Green, executive deputy commissioner of the Division of Criminal Justice Services, and Renee Smith-Rotondo, chair of the Board of Directors of the Children’s Alliance, highlighted the training during a press conference at the Erie County Central Police Services Public Safety Training Academy in Williamsville. Details about how to access the online training were sent to all law enforcement agencies across the state; it is available to officers for the first time today.

The approximately one-hour long training, titled Understanding and Responding to Child Abuse Allegations for Law Enforcement, focuses on the steps necessary to effectively gather preliminary information in a case, while taking into consideration the best interest of the child involved. The video lecture includes a segment providing an overview of Child Advocacy Centers and an example of how to speak with a child victim and conduct a minimal facts interview at the outset of a case.

The course covers the following topics: scope of the child abuse problem, the relationship between child maltreatment and child well-being, understanding the stages of child sexual abuse, how to speak with a child and conduct a minimal facts interview, forms of child abuse, the Child Advocacy Center Multidisciplinary Team response, gathering information from the source and managing the alleged perpetrator and non-offending caregiver.

Niagara County Sheriff Jim Voutour, president of the New York State Sheriffs’ Association, said, “When a crime against a child is first reported, law enforcement must be prepared to properly recognize and begin a criminal investigation while protecting the victim or victims. This online training will give law enforcement across the state easy access to valuable information and training so that we can protect the children that fall victim to predators.”

Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III, president of the District Attorneys’ Association of New York State, added, “This training will especially benefit the officers in many of the small police departments in Erie County and across the state that don’t have the resources to staff a full-time special victims unit.”

Staff from the Division of Criminal Justice Service’s Office of Public Safety, which develops and coordinates training for police officers and other law enforcement professionals, created the online course after partnering with the Children’s Alliance to develop a two-day, in-person training for first responders.

The Office of Public Safety began offering online training for police in February 2013 and since that time, approximately 5,000 officers have attended the courses. With this new training, the Office of Public Safety now offers 12 courses on variety of topics, including investigative strategies and skills for the recorded interview, identification procedures, distracted driver training, human trafficking, and approaching Alzheimer’s for first responders, among others.

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