MPD Releases Guidelines on Interviewing Crime Victims

By: Dana Brueck Email
By: Dana Brueck Email

On Tuesday, the Madison Police Department released "guiding principles" for interviewing victims of crime.

The policy review stems from a 10-year-old rape case in which police doubted the victim's story.

You might remember Patty. She reported a rape to police in 1997. This year, the city paid her $35,000 dollars after the city council passed the Justice for Patty resolution, which also called for an apology from MPD and a review of its policy for interviewing crime victims.

"We recognize trust gaps exist," Madison Police Chief Noble Wray says.

Gaps made wider, some say, by the treatment of Patty.

Wray says new guiding principles serve as a "philosophical and operational framework," but he says the department already follows such practices in its goal of finding the truth. The report puts them in writing and adds them to the policy manual.

"It's not going to be a huge operational change for us. It's not going to be a shift in thinking, shift in philosophy, shift in conduct," an MPD detective says.

The report lists 10 guiding principles. It says, among other things, investigators should:

  • Protect victims/witnesses from further victimization.
  • Complete interviews in an ethical and fair manner while following legal and constitutional guidelines.
  • Remain patient and open-minded.
  • Finally, when dealing with crime victims, investigative techniques involving trickery and/or deception may only be utilized as a last resort.

    "It’s constitutionally allowed under certain circumstances. What we're trying to do is outline those rare circumstances where this is allowed," Wray says.

    Which is in part why, Alder Austin King, feels it is a step forward but falls short. "That was the whole point of this resolution, the Justice for Patty resolution, was to say never again and what we see today is the department saying maybe again," he says.

    "I think the fact that it was identified as a last resort, and only in cases where they actually believe the allegations are in question is important, but as we've seen that can happen in cases where the victim is actually telling the truth," Kelly Anderson with the Rape Crisis Center says.

    "I make no guarantees this could not happen. We will work hard and treat victims with dignity and respect and sensitivity and to try and make sure that does not happen, but there are no guarantees," Wray says.

    Police remind people they have to balance the rights of the victims, the rights of the public and the accused.

    One more note, the chief is leaving the option of electronic recording of victim interviews to the discretion of the investigator because it is possibly more intrusive for a victim.

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