For Immediate Release: 3/23/2016
GOVERNOR CUOMO ANNOUNCES NEW GUIDANCE FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES INVESTIGATING HUMAN TRAFFICKING
Issuance of New Policies and Guidance Required under Women's Equality Agenda
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the creation of two new policies providing guidance to law enforcement agencies investigating human trafficking cases.
As part of the Women's Equality Agenda, Governor Cuomo signed legislation last fall requiring the New York State Municipal Police Training Council to develop a model policy for police departments and sheriffs' offices to use in cases involving victims of human trafficking. The legislation also required the New York State Police to develop its own procedures for use in these cases. Both policies will help law enforcement agencies identify human trafficking cases, communicate better with victims, and bring offenders to justice more effectively.
"Our law enforcement officers are on the front lines of combatting human trafficking and we must ensure they are well-prepared to help identify and put a stop to these heinous criminal enterprises," Governor Cuomo said. "This guidance will help police better identify trafficking operations, gather evidence to prosecute rings, and above all else, help victims secure the assistance they need."
The Council's model policy identifies the complexity of investigating human trafficking cases. Often times, human trafficking victims face deep trauma and are trained, through coercion or abuse, to avoid contact with law enforcement. The model policy advises police to coordinate investigations with trauma specialists and to focus interviews on the living or working conditions and/or any abuse suffered by the victim. The policy also encourages investigators to conduct interviews in non-law enforcement surroundings and without the presence of officers in uniform in order to reduce the anxiety level of traumatized victims.
Additionally, procedures are outlined for referring human trafficking victims to state agencies so they are able to receive services, such as safe housing or crisis intervention. Law enforcement will also receive guidance regarding the visa or immigration forms needed to assist victims who are not citizens of the United States; an appendix provides links to information and resources that law enforcement can use to connect victims with state and federal assistance.
Police departments and sheriffs' offices are not obligated to adopt the Council's model policy. It is designed to provide guidance and best practices so each agency can develop a policy based on its needs and circumstances.
Yates County Sheriff and Council Chair Ronald Spike said, "This policy will be an excellent resource for the 550 law enforcement agencies across New York. We’ve seen human trafficking cases throughout the state. This policy provides every department, regardless of size, with a framework to develop their own policies and procedures in order to help them better fight this scourge."
The New York State Police also developed and implemented a human trafficking policy that aligns with the Council's model policy. It also provides troopers with guidance to improve communication with victims and ensure they have access to legal and health services.
New York State Police Superintendent and Council Member Joseph A. D'Amico said, "Human trafficking is both a disturbing and complex crime which requires awareness and diligence by law enforcement officers to identify and investigate. These policies are critical tools that will provide guidance for troopers and law enforcement officers so we can put human traffickers in prison and get victims the help they need."
New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services Executive Deputy Commissioner Michael C. Green said, "Human trafficking is a drastically under-reported crime in part because its victims are groomed and coerced into roles where they resist investigative efforts. Victims are often deeply traumatized and have an ingrained reaction to avoid help from police. Investigations into these cases require collaboration, a deliberate process and a degree of care that takes into consideration the deep trauma these victims have experienced. This model policy provides a framework for law enforcement that will help guide them through these complex cases."
New York State's Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act, a key aspect of the Women's Equality Agenda, took effect in January 2016. It established new crimes to protect minors who are patronized for prostitution, increased penalties for trafficking crimes, and created an affirmative defense in prostitution prosecutions if the defendant was a trafficking victim. In addition, the new law made it easier for victims of human trafficking to receive support services.
Along with protecting victims of human trafficking, the Women’s Equality Agenda includes protections for women in pay equity and employment discrimination based on familial status and pregnancy, as well as protections for victims of domestic violence.
The Human Trafficking model policy is the most recent policy adopted by the Council in an effort to provide best practices and guidance to law enforcement agencies on critical issues. Staff from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, which supports the Council, coordinated the model policy development and sought input from the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, New York State Sheriffs’ Association, the District Attorneys’ Association of New York State, the New York State Police, the New York City Police Department, the Law Enforcement Training Directors Association New York, the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance and the state Office of Children and Family.
Human trafficking is defined as the illegal trade or use of a person against their will for the purpose of forced labor or sexual exploitation. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that nearly 18,000 people are brought into the United States annually and then held against their will by traffickers.
About New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services
The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services is a multi-function criminal justice support agency with a variety of responsibilities, including law enforcement training, 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 funds; support of criminal justice-related agencies across the state; and administration of the state’s Sex Offender Registry.
About New York State Municipal Police Training Council
The eight-member Council is supported by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services and has representatives from law enforcement agencies who are appointed by the Governor. In addition to developing and approving model policies, the Council sets minimum training requirements for newly-appointed police officers and develops courses of training for police officers appointed to supervisory positions, among other responsibilities.