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For immediate release: June 11, 2015

GOVERNOR CUOMO ANNOUNCES NEW ONLINE TRAINING FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT TO ENHANCE INVESTIGATION OF CHILD ABUSE CASES

Training for First Responders Developed in Partnership with New York State Children’s Alliance

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the launch of an online training course for law enforcement officers designed to improve the initial response to child abuse allegations. The training is aimed to help officers better identity, understand and investigate child abuse cases 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," Governor 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.”

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said, “No victim is more vulnerable than a child. No criminal more heinous than one who would prey on the most innocent among us. No crime is more emotionally wrenching for law enforcement than coming upon a child abuse situation. That is why Governor Cuomo's initiative to offer enhanced online training in child abuse cases for every member of law enforcement is to be applauded in our own state and replicated in every other. “

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.

Executive Deputy Commissioner of DCJS Mike Green said, “The ability to successfully investigate reports of child abuse, ultimately learn the truth and hold those who abuse children accountable is directly affected by the actions of the officers who have the first contact with a child. This course is designed to train officers in best practices for handling these difficult situations from the very beginning, which will play a key role in reducing any additional trauma to the child and provide for more positive outcomes to these investigations.”

Board of Directors of the Children’s Alliance and Director of the Madison County Children’s Advocacy Center Renee Smith-Rotondo said, “Child Advocacy Centers provide a child-focused, multi-disciplinary system response to child physical and sexual abuse cases. One of our essential team partners is law enforcement. Without them, we could not do the hard work of getting to the truth and ferretting out cases of abuse. This training is another step in our ongoing efforts to ensure that the system response to child abuse is the best that it can be.”

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.

Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III, president of the District Attorneys’ Association of New York State, said, “I’d like to thank Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Green for their commitment to providing law enforcement agencies across the state with additional resources and support that allow them to enhance the services they provide to their communities. 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.”

Added Niagara County Sheriff James R. Voutour, president of the New York State Sheriffs’ Association, “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.”

Glenville Police Chief Michael D. Ranalli, president of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, said, “Child abuse cases can profoundly and traumatically impact the victims, their families and the law enforcement officers who investigate them. The victimization of helpless children makes it all the more critical that these cases are investigated properly, ultimately leading to an arrest and successful prosecution. This is what helps to motivate law enforcement officers: knowledge that their actions can help prevent the suspect from continuing to prey on innocent children. These types of investigations are complex and difficult, and the addition of child abuse investigation training is a welcome addition to the Division of Criminal Justice Services growing list of online courses.”

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.

The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (www.criminaljustice.ny.gov) is a multifunction criminal justice support agency with a variety of responsibilities, including collection and analysis of statewide crime data; maintenance of criminal history information and fingerprint files; administrative oversight of the state’s DNA Databank, in partnership with the New York State Police; administration of federal and state criminal justice grant funds; support of criminal justice-related agencies across the state; and administration of the state’s Sex Offender Registry.

The New York State Children’s Alliance (www.nyschildrensalliance.org) promotes the development, growth and continuation of multidisciplinary teams and child advocacy centers throughout New York State in order to better serve abused and neglected children and their families. The alliance is the unified voice of New York’s centers and advocates for their best interest on a state and federal level.

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