Core Elements and Challenges
The sites found that developing, making operational, and maintaining victim-centered practices in a rural law enforcement agency requires dedicated staff. Most sites used grant funding to support staff positions that developed and oversaw their victim services programs and provided direct services. Some also used consultants to complete short-term tasks, such as conducting needs assessments and evaluations, and some used volunteers.
ChallengeSome sites had difficulty hiring and retaining staff, securing sufficient staff to meet their needs, providing an optimal working environment, and sustaining staff positions.
To counter these problems, law enforcement agencies planning these initiatives should consider the following:
- How will qualified staff be found? The more rural the site, the harder it often was to find qualified staff. To attract more candidates, some sites advertised locally and in surrounding area newspapers and forwarded job announcements to local and regional social service agencies.
- Will staff be civilians or officers? Some agencies hired civilian staff, while others assigned staff, usually sworn officers, with an interest in victim issues. If assigning agency personnel, think about whether they are motivated to remain in the position over the long term and if the time period for the assignment is sufficient to develop and sustain the initiative.
- Will volunteers be used? Several agencies used volunteers to expand their capacity to serve victims. Successful use of volunteers requires support and cooperation from agency personnel and a system for managing, recruiting, training, and supervising volunteers.
- How will personnel turnover be handled? At several sites, officers initially assigned to the program were rotated to other initiatives in their agencies. A few sites that hired civilian staff dealt with resignations during the grant period. If turnover occurs, the law enforcement agency should plan to quickly reassign personnel or should hire new staff with the appropriate skills, interests, and background.
- Where will the office be located? An important factor in choosing an office for the victim services program was whether the location maximized accessibility for victims and allowed staff to easily coordinate their services with investigating officers.
- How will the agency sustain positions over time? Most sites found the resources they needed to sustain their victim service positions. A few law enforcement agencies partnered with local or regional service organizations to ensure continued assistance for victims.