Professional advice from a professing law enforcement training officer
This email is worded rather strongly, but the reality is that I cannot word this strongly enough.
I have received some questions regarding sex offenders and suspected offenders being in meeting with potential victims and what the threshold should be for notifying parents, caregivers, and potential adult victims when someone has offended or is suspected of being an offender. Bottom line, if someone is convicted of or suspected of being a sex offender, they should not be meeting with those who represent their victims (children, teenagers, single women, sister workers, etc.) and people should always be notified so they can protect the vulnerable as they see fit. Failure to do so is comparable to handing a drug addict illicit drugs and trusting/hoping they won’t use the drugs and hurt someone. Allowing suspected offenders to be around potential victims is irresponsible and those who knowingly allow that to happen may be guilty of a crime if a suspected offender reoffends. I can only speak for the state of Montana, but MCA 45-5-628 (Criminal Child Endangerment) and MCA 45-5-622 (Endangering Welfare of Children) may apply; a conviction is not required in order to mandate steps be taken to protect children. Note that notifications should not be done in a malicious spirit of judgement, but with the intention of protecting the vulnerable.
It is important to understand that the laws vary quite a bit from state to state and that the proper application of law is often a grey area. What I mean by “grey area” is that it is impossible for the legislature to write laws that specifically cover every single possible scenario, so laws tend to be written simply and are then enforced with a measure of latitude. A lot of people read laws and think “it doesn’t specifically cover this situation therefore it doesn’t apply”. However, law enforcement officers and prosecutors are given discretion to rely on prudent judgement and historical case law when it comes to enforcing laws. The US judicial system is designed so that a jury will decide whether or not the latitude and discretion applied by both the investigating officer(s) and prosecutor is appropriate. Despite this measure of latitude, law enforcement officers and prosecutors still often believe that a crime has occurred but still do not have the proof required for a conviction as beyond a reasonable doubt is a difficult standard to obtain. Because of this, along with the traumatizing effects on a victim of reporting a crime, it is understood that the vast majority of sex and child endangerment crimes go unreported, unpunished, and many offenders remain free. No one should wait for a criminal conviction before taking action to protect the vulnerable. A prudent officer will try to err on the side of protecting the vulnerable when possible. Friends and workers should do the same. With this in mind, parents and caregivers have a moral obligation to not meet with someone they believe may pose a danger. Once again, anyone who attempts to force potential victims to meet with known or suspected offenders may be guilty of a crime. Of greater importance, anyone who knowingly endangers the vulnerable is guilty of a serious moral failure regardless of criminal code application.
Unfortunately, I am receiving many accounts of workers and friends making determinations of risk on their own. It has happened often in the past and it is regrettably happening right now across North America. It is not appropriate for someone who is untrained in sex crimes and survivor trauma to attempt such determinations. Romans 13 1-7 is quite clear that some things are to be left to the law. Sexual deviancy is unquestionably one of those things. Investigating sex crimes requires an understanding of survivor trauma that the untrained do not have. We have learned in recent years that investigating sex crimes requires a completely different approach which has unfortunately caused a lot of legitimate claims to be dismissed by law enforcement in the past. Without going into too much detail, a person who has experienced survivor trauma is often going to behave and communicate in a manner that comes across as unreliable to an untrained person. However, a properly trained and experienced investigator understands that seemingly unreliable survivor trauma behaviors are actually a strong indicator that a crime has occured. This is why determinations of crime should be left to law enforcement officers who are specifically trained in such matters. Risk of re-offense should be left to mental health professionals who are specifically trained in such matters. Knowing what we know now, trying to handle things “in house” rather than turning things over to the authorities is harmful and may be criminal.
It is everyone’s duty to speak up against actions which put the vulnerable at risk. Many have taken the stance that they are going to sit back, pray, and allow God to handle it. However, God’s work often requires his people to both pray and take action. Faith without works is dead. It may be uncomfortable and unpleasant, but God needs his people to take a stand for what is right. Suspected crimes are to be reported to law enforcement. Those who endanger potential victims need to be counseled. If they fail to take appropriate action, they are to be reported.
I hope this is helpful. Please feel free to share as necessary.
Montana Law Enforcement Academy
Criminal Child Endangerment
45-5-628. Criminal child endangerment. (1) A person commits the offense of criminal child endangerment if the person purposely, knowingly, or negligently causes substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to a child under 14 years of age by:
(a) failing to seek reasonable medical care for a child suffering from an apparent acute life-threatening condition;
(b) placing a child in the physical custody of another who the person knows has previously purposely or knowingly caused bodily injury to a child;
(c) placing a child in the physical custody of another who the person knows has previously committed an offense against the child under 45-5-502 or 45-5-503;
(d) manufacturing or distributing dangerous drugs in a place where a child is present;
(e) operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or dangerous drugs in violation of 61-8-1002 or committing aggravated driving under the influence as defined in 61-8-1001 with a child in the vehicle; or
(f) failing to attempt to provide proper nutrition for a child, resulting in a medical diagnosis of nonorganic failure to thrive.
(2) A person may not be charged under subsection (1)(b) or (1)(c) if the person placed the child in the other person’s custody pursuant to a court order.
(3) A person convicted of the offense of criminal child endangerment shall be fined an amount not to exceed $50,000 or be imprisoned in the state prison for a term not to exceed 10 years, or both.
Endangering Welfare Of Children
45-5-622. Endangering welfare of children. (1) A parent, guardian, or other person supervising the welfare of a child less than 18 years old commits the offense of endangering the welfare of children if the parent, guardian, or other person knowingly endangers the child’s welfare by violating a duty of care, protection, or support.
(2) Except as provided in 16-6-305, a parent or guardian or any person who is 18 years of age or older, whether or not the parent, guardian, or other person is supervising the welfare of the child, commits the offense of endangering the welfare of children if the parent, guardian, or other person knowingly contributes to the delinquency of a child less than:
(a) 18 years old by:
(i) supplying or encouraging the use of an intoxicating substance by the child; or
(ii) assisting, promoting, or encouraging the child to enter a place of prostitution; or
(b) 16 years old by assisting, promoting, or encouraging the child to:
(i) abandon the child’s place of residence without the consent of the child’s parents or guardian; or
(ii) engage in sexual conduct.
(3) A person, whether or not the person is supervising the welfare of a child less than 18 years of age, commits the offense of endangering the welfare of children if the person, in the residence of a child, in a building, structure, conveyance, or outdoor location where a child might reasonably be expected to be present, in a room offered to the public for overnight accommodation, or in any multiple-unit residential building, knowingly:
(a) produces or manufactures methamphetamine or attempts to produce or manufacture methamphetamine;
(b) possesses any material, compound, mixture, or preparation that contains any combination of the items listed in 45-9-107 with intent to manufacture methamphetamine; or
(c) causes or permits a child to inhale, be exposed to, have contact with, or ingest methamphetamine or be exposed to or have contact with methamphetamine paraphernalia.
(4) A parent, guardian, or other person supervising the welfare of a child less than 16 years of age may verbally or in writing request a person who is 18 years of age or older and who has no legal right of supervision or control over the child to stop contacting the child if the requester believes that the contact is not in the child’s best interests. If the person continues to contact the child, the parent, guardian, or other person supervising the welfare of the child may petition or the county attorney may upon the person’s request petition for an order of protection under Title 40, chapter 15. To the extent that they are consistent with this subsection, the provisions of Title 40, chapter 15, apply. A person who purposely or knowingly violates an order of protection commits the offense of endangering the welfare of children and upon conviction shall be sentenced as provided in subsection (5)(a).
(5) (a) Except as provided in subsection (5)(b), a person convicted of endangering the welfare of children shall be fined an amount not to exceed $500 or be imprisoned in the county jail for any term not to exceed 6 months, or both. A person convicted of a second offense of endangering the welfare of children shall be fined an amount not to exceed $1,000 or be imprisoned in the county jail for any term not to exceed 6 months, or both.
(b) A person convicted under subsection (3) is guilty of a felony and shall be imprisoned in the state prison for a term not to exceed 5 years and may be fined an amount not to exceed $10,000, or both. If a child suffers serious bodily injury, the offender shall be fined an amount not to exceed $25,000 or be imprisoned for a term not to exceed 10 years, or both. Prosecution or conviction of a violation of subsection (3) does not bar prosecution or conviction for any other crime committed by the offender as part of the same conduct.
(6) On the issue of whether there has been a violation of the duty of care, protection, and support, the following, in addition to all other admissible evidence, is admissible: cruel treatment; abuse; infliction of unnecessary and cruel punishment; abandonment; neglect; lack of proper medical care, clothing, shelter, and food; and evidence of past bodily injury.
(7) The court may order, in its discretion, any fine levied or any bond forfeited upon a charge of endangering the welfare of children paid to or for the benefit of the person or persons whose welfare the defendant has endangered.
Matt – the portion of scripture that you quoted was correct. But there are other portions of scripture that should also enter the picture. I don’t disagree that the law should be obeyed – but I do believe that God left an order for things to be dealt with. Once names are put out there for the whole world to see – that damage can not be reversed…..no matter how many retractions there are. We can look to the OT even for instruction. I won’t go on, except to say – I hope that those that are making these life-altering decisions have taken a good hard look at the ‘facts’…..not just the accusations – before action is taken.
Thank you for what you shared.
Please keep in mind the OT was written for the Jews and while it’s a great guide for us we are saved through Christ. When laws are suspected of being broken my belief is that situation must be handed over to the authorities as they have the resources and expertise to investigate thoroughly. Romans 13:1 NKJV “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.”
Also let’s not forget the pain and suffering caused by the perpetrator of CSA on a victim goes far beyond a damage to one’s image which can be repaired. We should be less mindful of the image and show more love and care for the weak and vulnerable ones that are being taken advantage of. Gods knows the heart and we all will be judged not on our public image but what no one else can see or know…our hearts.
You are why this letter needs to be written. You are why victims are afraid to report. I urge you to re-read it.
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