After the Victim Impact statement is written, questions will remain. Yes, the service is a business transaction at its heart, but I believe that if questions remains, it’s appropriate to sometimes directly assist and also direct clients to your body of resources on-line or otherwise.
Here’s an example of a common question that comes up in the process of navigating the criminal justice system…
How do you get the opportunity to talk to a police chief about your case if you are dissatisfied?
In this case, the client was working with a large metropolitan city police department;
However, a new female chief has taken over the department. Her case was highly complex in terms of the circumstances of the homicide, and the history of the victim.
Homicide units are an entity all their own. Detectives often work up to these positions after working in other areas of criminal investigation. They are highly intense environments with erratic work hours. There is rarely if ever a ‘pure homicide case as it typically involves other crimes such as missing persons, drug dealing, intimate -partner-family violence, prostitution, human trafficking, abduction etc.
Homicide detectives see the seamy, dark side of life as a steady diet, and often are prone to burnout without the proper support. All that aside, it can be difficult for detectives to treat every case with new objectivity.
Although it may be unjust and not lacking in compassion, victims who have also participated in the criminal side, can also be the victim of prejudice, not prioritized and sometimes viewed as disposable people.
Unfortunately, the extraordinary heinous nature of this victim, combined with life habits that could not be broken ,and difficulties with gender identity all contribute to the lack of zealousness on the part of the police, whether perceived or real.
When a victim’s family is equipped with only their sense of right and wrong and what should take place as their personal map to navigate the system rather than a skilled victim advocate to guide them through each step of the process, frustration ensues and a need to go to the top.
Any police chief who is new to a department needs to size up the culture and earn the trust of the staff. Although female detectives are more and more common, if a female Chief of Police joins the ranks, she can be walking into the “Men’s club” in which her abilities to lead can be tested.
How to Go to the Top
Continuing our scenario- In order to appropriately capture the attention of a new Police Chief, here are some suggested (not foolproof) Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind;
- Request an appointment to discuss the case, leading with a positive comment and asking to solve a specific problem;
- Maintain boundaries regarding calling for updates, complaints, asking detectives to divulge investigative information;
- Do understand that many cases are worked on simultaneously;
- Do request a detective who is willing to take on the duty as your main communicator on a reasonable schedule;
- Request that you are provided with a written copy of your state’s constitutional rights as a victim of crime with an explanation of all rights;
- From your list of frustrations, decide as a family, which issue is the most important to you at this point in time, and ask the Chief to help you resolve that one most important problem now rather than “a laundry list of complaints”;
- Request that a skilled victim advocate be assigned to you and your family to assist you in guiding you through the process versus calling on detectives or a DA’s office with every question;
- Should you feel you have a legitimate complaint based upon minority status- racial, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or a victim’s former criminal record, discuss it calmly with the Chief who needs to address the issue Administratively with her staff first;
- Request that all staff be honest with you but respect that you want to maintain hope for your loved one and the resolution of the case, no matter how difficult;
- In order to gauge expectations, request that the police and victim advocate provide you with an estimated time frame for the process to take place, if possible;
- Ask for a recommendation to a good non-profit homicide support group to assist you with information that can be provided quicker more efficiently;
- If there are other complexities that your detectives are not aware of that may impact the case, notify the lead detective or Chief immediately
- Don’t lead with complaints or threats;
- Don’t expect that all your questions must be answered;
- Don’t insist on other staff replacing your detective of record unless the Chief recommends and/ or another detective volunteers to assist with the approval of the Chief;
- Don’t expect all of your problem list to be fixed;
- Don’t expect that your case is the priority with all detectives in the same manner it is for you and your family;
- Don’t expect other to care as much about your loved one as much as you;
If you find a detective or a Chief of Police who cares over and above what the job requires… That’s wonderful; That’s gravy… You are Blessed!
Wishing you the best of luck when you meet with the Chief of Police…..
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