Justice 3D trainers travel around the nation to reintroduce training for law enforcement officers and first responders in a way that may differ from what they were taught. During changing times, the visiting trainers have integrated trainings with a trauma-informed lens for agencies involved in investigation, prosecution and advocacy of victim-related crimes.
Sheridan County Coalition Against Violence hosted a three-day training by Justice 3D, a nationwide company educating in issues related to investigating and prosecuting sexual assault, child abuse and domestic violence cases. The training provided an array of training topics for local and statewide advocates, law enforcement officers and prosecution attorneys. SCCAV member and Sheridan’s Advocacy and Resource Center Volunteer Coordinator Cassidy Drew, who organized the training, said there is a lot of overlap between agencies involved in all three segments of Justice 3D’s focus areas, which is representative of the makeup of SCCAV.
“As an advocate, it’s nice to understand and learn alongside our own law enforcement and see what they’re learning and how we can be helpful and how we can build that partnership and how we can work with them to come from a more team-based approach,” Drew said. “… I still feel very grateful in Sheridan County for the three-and-a-half years I’ve been doing this job. I feel we have really strong relationships with the law enforcement and prosecutors I’ve met.”
Justice 3D trainer Nancy Oglesby said advocates usually understand the concept of empathy and trauma-informed response to victims of violent offenses. Where the changes are being seen and experienced are in law enforcement and prosecution.
“We try to educate in any situation where there’s bad information being taught,” Oglesby said. “I think that, as with any area, when you have training that’s been out there for 20 to 30 years, if it’s not updated it’s not going to be accurate.
“There are unfortunately those things out there that haven’t been changed and haven’t been brought to the modern age of trauma, and sexual assault is probably where that’s been affected the most.”
Oglesby said attendees of the training in Sheridan, as well as other trainings throughout the country, are hungry to learn and are taking notes and paying attention during the trainings.
Justice 3D cofounder Mike Milnor agreed and said trainees have come up to him following a training with tears in their eyes. The trainees shared that they now understand how to better work with victims of crime and expressed sorrow for people they have potentially revictimized during investigations. The second-to-last session focused on empathy-based interrogations, which brings in all three sectors.
“If you want people to talk to you, if you treat them like a human and you empathize with them — and that doesn’t mean you agree with what they did — but if you can at least convince them…that you see how they got there, then they’re going to be willing to keep talking to you,” Oglesby said.
The most satisfying part for Milnor involves seeing the attendees understand topics and change their outlook about their jobs. Local law enforcement has started to see the paradigm shift throughout training. Sgt. James Hill with the Sheridan Police Department said the idea of being trauma-informed is happening across the board with law enforcement officers in investigations of crimes like sexual assault.
Hill said he noticed the biggest difference is law enforcement officers’ interactions with victims in the investigation and interviewing process. At the SPD, officers often gather the most pertinent information — like jurisdiction and the safety of all involved — immediately after the crime has been reported or discovered and then will return a day after for questioning on further details of the crime.
“It’s important to be cognizant as you’re interviewing that the way the brain remembers things is not…I always tell victims that ‘I don’t expect you to be a video recorder and I understand you might not remember,’” Hill said.
While the shift from interrogations to a trauma-informed standpoint is still making its way through law enforcement agencies throughout the state, local agencies have made the transition.