Investigators may (when deemed safe) also ensure that the stalker is told that his behaviors (such as following, telephoning, leaving gifts, and the like) are unwanted (often called a "Knock and Talk" intervention)159. By personally informing the stalker of this fact, the officer will be able to testify that the stalker's actions were "knowingly" done, a critical element of the crime under many states' anti-stalking laws.160 The Dover Police Department recommends that investigators gather as much information as possible about the suspect (including motor vehicle and criminal record checks161) before interviewing him. Interviews with family, friends, neighbors, etc. are also part of the suspect pre-interview data gathering. All interviews should be fully documented. The types of information about the suspect sought at this time include the following:
History of violence, especially domestic violence (including controlling behaviors)
Violations of court orders
Tendency toward emotional outbursts or rage
Homicidal or suicidal behavior or threats
Major stress such as loss of employment
History of extreme jealousy
History of mental illness
Substance abuse problems
Prior refusal for firearms license.162
When the suspect is finally interviewed, he should be given an opportunity to explain how his actions may have been misinterpreted by the victim (or others). Before the interview is completed, the suspect should be asked about prior similar behavior (toward other victims).163
An important consideration in interviewing stalkers is their tendency to use self-justification to explain their stalking behaviors. As Mullen et al. put it, they have a unique ability to "deny, minimize and rationalize." These medical practitioners suggest that questioning in their context be "nonjudgmental, if not collusive."164 They further found that "intimacy seekers in particular respond well to reframing stalking in terms of a quest." This allows answers that do not require justification of actions.165 As one law enforcement practitioner described it, they need to be questioned as child molesters: "Tell us how your acts were misunderstood."166
Cyberstalking Evidence Collection
Other investigative techniques are much more sophisticated, especially where cyberstalking is involved. In these cases, it may be necessary to serve search warrants on Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to help identify who is sending the cyberstalking messages or simply to prove that the suspect was responsible (where identity is already known). In most instances, the suspect is not notified of service of a search warrant. However, where the ISP provides Internet service through a cable system used to deliver television services, federal law requires that notice be given by the ISP.167 In some California jurisdictions, the prosecutor routinely requests that the court issuing the warrant also enjoin the required notice until the investigation is complete.168 It should also be remembered that cyberstalking cases require great speed in gathering electronic evidence. Many ISPs routinely erase their service records within 12 or 24 hours of when an e-mail or web link is provided.
Other Actions to Gain Corroborative Evidence
The state of Connecticut has developed training materials for stalking investigators. These materials provide suggestions about additional steps investigators can take to obtain evidence corroborating the victim's statements. Investigators are encouraged to do the following:
Determine the suspect's place of work, since stalkers often do their stalking while going to or returning from work. This shows opportunity and may rebut any alibi.
Conduct drive-by patrols of the suspect's and victim's homes to track suspect movements.
In cases where the victim lives near a school, notify crossing guards to call police if they see the suspect or his vehicle in the area.169
Interviews of coworkers, friends, neighbors, family members, or even persons living in the same multi-family building as the victim may provide important corroborative evidence. The interviews may also uncover additional stalking behaviors that the victim was unaware of (e.g., lurking in the area)170.
Other types of corroborative evidence may be gathered by obtaining the suspect's telephone records for calls to the victim and by using the media (where the case has unique features) to get reports of similar victimizations.171
Investigators are also reminded that because stalking investigations are time-consuming, victims may stop reporting stalker contacts or incidents. That does not mean they are uninterested in having the stalker arrested, but; they are simply fatigued.172 This problem, identified by the state trainers, identified is likely to be most acute where the victim has no single point of contact at the law enforcement or prosecutor's office to call for support.
Case File Management
The history of the stalker's behavior is the heart of any stalking investigation. This history is, of course, contained in the unit or investigator's case files. How those files are maintained is critical to successful investigations and prosecutions. The LAPD Threat Management Unit requires that each stalking case file be maintained in a separate, case-specific three-ring binder that is maintained chronologically.173 The Colorado Springs DVERT program has adopted a similar requirement for its investigators handling stalking cases.174 The stalking case file should typically includes the following:
Case summary profile, including victim and suspect identifiers (names, addresses, employers, birth dates, etc.) and name of detective assigned to case
Copies of all incident and arrest reports
Interviews with the suspect, witnesses, and victim
Suspect criminal records
Motor vehicle agency records
Other police department contacts
Other information that may be contained in the file is as follows:
Suspect telephone records
Suspect's military record
Suspect's mental health information
Child welfare agency investigative records
Photograph of suspect.
Selected data from the file is also entered into the unit's computerized database. All files are kept in a locked file cabinet in the TMU area. Computerized data about stalking cases is maintained indefinitetly. Depending on whether the case was considered "active" or simple information only, hard copies of the files are kept for three years and either before being transferred to archives or destroyed.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
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