Virginia Commonwealth University Police Uses Survivor-Centered and Offender-Focused Approach to Sexual Assault Investigations

Guest Blogger: Corey Byers, Public Information Officer, VCU Police Department, Richmond, VA

Sexual assaults are one of the hardest crimes to investigate.

By the time Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Police officers hear a survivor’s story, the student is understandably confused about what happened, emotional, and may experience guilt or shame. After such a traumatic experience, VCU Police have determined there’s a better way to sort out the facts other than by interrogating the survivor.

About two years ago, VCU Police Chief John Venuti realized his officers really needed a new starting point for sexual assault investigations. He often told colleagues and the media that sexual assaults were unlike any other crime and needed to be approached differently.

yhopThe You Have Options Program (YHOP) had the elements Chief Venuti was looking for. It’s survivor-centered, and offender-focused. In other words, officers help survivors get the health, medical, and counseling services they need first and also use the investigative process to identify serial perpetrators in the population.

YHOP was a logical next step for the department, which was already changing the way survivors were treated. Prior to 2016, the chief sought out trauma-informed training for officers and joined the public awareness campaign, “Start by Believing,” to emphasize that survivors at VCU would be believed, should they come forward to police.

Ultimately, YHOP agencies want to ensure the survivor   ̶  and the criminal justice system  ̶  obtain favorable outcomes.

Following a nearly 16-month implementation, VCUPD launched YHOP in fall 2016. Victim-witness officers are assigned to each patrol shift and detectives are trained in trauma-informed investigations.  All VCUPD staff, including civilians, were briefed on YHOP’s background, goals, and investigative model.

First and foremost, when a sexual assault survivor comes forward, they are believed and supported – not judged.

As a part of the YHOP intake process, the survivor is educated on all possible next steps. Survivors can speak with an advocate or counselor instead of police and can choose one of three reporting options: information only, partial investigation, or complete investigation.

Only a complete investigation can result in criminal charges against a suspect, but all information provided by survivors can be useful. For example, even simple, descriptive details about the place where the individuals met, or the room in which the assault occurred, can help police develop suspects and connect the dots between serial perpetrators.

For VCU Police officers, the goal of that first conversation with a survivor is to build a rapport and treat each person with dignity and respect.

In an effort to offer more reporting options, online and third-party reports are accepted. VCUPD worked with YHOP program coordinators to develop an online portal that outlines the reporting process, along with Title IX requirements and Clery Act requirements in relation to confidentiality.

In October 2016, VCUPD moved to a new headquarters in downtown Richmond, Virginia, 101716_Soft Interview Room - Copy.jpgand integrated YHOP’s best practices in designing new spaces. Two rooms are designated as “soft interview” or “survivor interview” rooms. The dedicated rooms have been outfitted with softer lighting and small couches to mimic a living room, or counselor’s office. The rooms were designed to be distinctly different than a traditional interview room for suspects.

Since August 1, 2016, VCU Police have seen an increase in sexual assault reports, specifically in third-party reports and reports of incidents outside its jurisdiction.

Chief Venuti believes the increase in reporting is due to more awareness about sexual assault, but is also a reflection of the trust students, faculty, and staff members have with the department. In Venuti’s own words, “if you don’t have trust in a campus police department, you won’t report a sexual assault to it.”

In the future, VCUPD will work with YHOP program coordinators to develop a database for the documentation of trends, and profiles, of serial sexual predators.

For more information on communicating sexual assault policing and prevention initiatives, contact VCUPD Public Information Officer Corey Byers at For more information on how VCUPD implemented the YHOP program, contact VCU Police Chief John Venuti at

Posted in Victim Services | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Police Chief Magazine Online Version

BD McCray, Deputy Director, United States Customs and Border Protection, IACP Law Enforcement Fellow

Transitioning into the online and social media arena can be daunting and stressful, especially as the need for transparency is coupled with requirement to maintain the integrity and security of personally identifiable information (PII). However, as many of IACP’s more than 26,000 members make that transition, the IACP is meeting your changing needs by launching a new, revamped online accompaniment to their flagship publication, The Police Chief.

After years of resistance and lack of understanding, I, too, am obligated to get involved in the digital and social media space. A creature of habit and comfort, I have been encouraged by professional necessity to get into the action (better late than never).

My first rotational assignment as an IACP Fellow is with the IACP Outreach Team and my tasks include familiarizing myself with the IACP tools and efforts to keep our membership informed and in touch. To this end, I was asked to prepare a blog about the newly redesigned Police Chief magazine website. (Candidly, I had to look online to determine the meaning of the word “blog” and then review the internal policy for writing a blog.)

As many of you are aware, IACP publishes a monthly magazine that is distributed to all IACP members and other subscribers. In October 2016, the IACP launched the new Police Chief magazine website. Police Chief Online is not a replacement for the hard copy of the magazine, rather it is a supplement to it. The new website provides IACP members and subscribers with all of the information contained in the print magazine, as well as other helpful content such as weekly online-only articles. Other new features of the online magazine include

  • the translation tool (Google Translate) – facilitating seamless communication with our international membership
  • sharing functions – allows user to send articles by email or share via social media
  • subscribe or submit features – allow the user to subscribe to the magazine or submit an article for consideration

The new website is user-friendly and logical. It provides you with 24/7 access to all of the Police Chief magazine content and more. The online version facilitates the participation of a larger audience, the photos and graphics are pleasing to the eye, and the summary paragraphs provide you with narrative information to encourage further reading or bookmarking for later review. The content headings provide you with a quick reference to the topic of the article and help you quickly navigate to the topical areas you are focused on.  From my viewpoint this is an important tool for current and aspiring executives who must stay informed, engaged, and aware of changing trends.

Effective on December 7, 2016, exclusive access to Police Chief Online will be granted to IACP members and magazine subscribers. Not an IACP member yet? Click the Join button on the Police Chief website or visit to join the association.

Visit us at and let us know what you think of the new website!

Posted in Police Chief magazine | Tagged , | Leave a comment

How IACP Selects its Annual Conference Educational Programming

Have you ever wondered how workshops are chosen for the IACP Annual Conference and Exposition? Have you found yourself wondering what it takes to speak at an IACP conference? Or do you have a great topic idea you want to share in front of an audience?

In January, IACP will open a Call for Presentations for IACP 2017 in which anyone can submit a presentation proposal for consideration. We receive hundreds of proposals and each one is peer-reviewed to determine the approximately 200 workshops presented at the conference. Reviewers are looking for current topics that can apply to a diverse audience. The conference is a microcosm of IACP so topics should apply to a global audience including federal, state, local, tribal, and university agencies.

Submitting a presentation proposal is easy and is done online through our conference website. A proposal consists of the presentation title, proposed speakers, description, learning objectives, and methodology. Our Call for Presentations breaks each of these items into their own steps and you can easily save your work and come back to it later. The last step before reviewing and submitting the proposal is to choose the most appropriate track for the topic. Our workshops are categorized into tracks to help attendees choose among over 200 workshops onsite. Our tracks are specific to roles (i.e. Legal Officers, Physicians, Psychologists, etc). or areas (i.e. Foundation, Companion, Technology, Smaller Agency). We also have a Leadership Track that can touch upon all of these other categories in a general sense.

Proposal Tips

  • Title – Titles should be short, grab someone’s attention, and give the audience a sense of the topic.
  • Description – The description is used to explain the topic and IACP publishes this to market the programming. It should provide an overview of what the audience will hear and learn at the workshop.
  • Proposed Speakers – Speakers should be both within law enforcement and support law enforcement agencies. If a proposed topic is specific to the executive level, an active or recently retired law enforcement executive should speak. The IACP audience wants to learn from its peers. If a topic is about a specific event, the attendees want first-hand knowledge of the event from someone on the front lines.
  • Learning Objectives – Workshops should be informative. Attendees want to leave with new ideas, a new perspective, or new resources. These objectives help the reviewers and audience understand what they can expect to learn during the workshop.
  • Methodology – This helps reviewers understand how the topic will be presented (i.e. using PowerPoint, videos, first-hand interviews, etc.). It also can explain what research was done on the topic.

If you have a proposed topic, please submit it when our Call for Presentations opens January 4, 2017. The submission link will be available on the conference website and will close February 28, 2017. If you have any questions regarding the proposal process, please email Tracy Woodhead, IACP Conference Program Manager. Share your knowledge with others.

Posted in Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference General Information | Leave a comment

Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) – Important Now As Never Before

With the continued efforts, both nationally and internationally, to legalize recreational marijuana, along with the increasing epidemic of opiate abuse, our roadways are being adversely impacted by an increasing number of drivers impaired by drugs, other than alcohol, or in combination with alcohol. This makes the need for officers trained as Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) as important now as ever before.

Many states are seeing a growing trend in more drugged driving arrests than with drivers impaired by alcohol. Consequently, traffic fatalities involving drugs other than alcohol also appear to be on the increase in many states.

States that have already legalized marijuana for recreational or medical purposes are starting to see some alarming consequences. Fatal crashes involving drivers who recently used marijuana doubled in Washington state after recreational marijuana was legalized.

In Colorado in 2015, 12.4% of fatal crashes involved a driver who tested positive for cannabis alone, up from 8.1% in 2013. The number of drivers involved in fatal crashes who tested positive for any drug hit a record 18.6% in 2015, again up from previous years.

Colorado and Washington were the first two states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, and these findings serve as an eye-opener for what other states may experience with roadway safety after legalizing marijuana.

In Oregon, another state that recently legalized recreational marijuana, a tragic example occurred four days after legalization took place. A driver, under the influence of marijuana, struck and killed a pedestrian crossing the street at an intersection near Portland, Oregon. Witnesses reported seeing the driver smoking from a marijuana pipe moments before hitting the pedestrian. A DRE responded to the scene and assisted in the investigation. A second DRE later conducted a drug influence evaluation on the suspect, confirming that he was under the influence of cannabis. A blood sample obtained from the suspect confirmed the presence of marijuana in his system. With the assistance and expertise of the two DRE’s, the suspect pled guilty to Criminal Negligent Homicide and DUI-Drugs.

Currently there are over 8,000 IACP credentialed DREs in the United States, more than 3,680 law enforcement agencies have DREs on staff. In addition, there are over 500 DREs in Canada, and there are DREs in the United Kingdom, Guam, China, and Germany. The number of DREs continue to grow both nationally and internationally, however, more are needed to keep up with the drugged driving trends. As previously mentioned, if more states legalize marijuana, more DREs will be needed.

Law enforcement administrators must understand the impact of the drugged driving dilemma and be proactive in their approach to help reduce it. The IACP continues to assist states with several important drugged driving countermeasure training courses. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) is a two-day (16 hour) classroom drugged driving course taught by DRE instructors. It assists road officers to better detect many of the common signs, symptoms and indicators of drug impairment in suspected impaired drivers. The Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) Program, coordinated and managed by the IACP, trains officers to be Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) and is considered the premier drugged driving training.

To learn more about each of these two training opportunities, visit the IACP DEC Program webpage.

Posted in Drugs & Alcohol, Education & Training, Traffic Safety

One Mind Campaign: Improving Police Response to Persons Affected by Mental Illness

Pledge your support for the One Mind Campaign, designed to improve police response to persons affected by mental illness.

onemindThe IACP has been working to address police response to persons affected by mental illness for the past several years. In 2010, IACP issued a report that focused on a broad range of goals for legislators, mental health experts, and law enforcement officers addressing legislation and policy, first responders, youth, cross-system collaboration, and offender re-entry into the community. To follow up, in 2014 IACP issued a revised Model Policy on Responding to Persons Affected by Mental Illness or in Crisis. This Model Policy highlights the unique challenges that law enforcement agencies face in responding to persons affected by mental illness and provides guidance, techniques, and resources so that the situation can be resolved in a constructive manner. More recently in 2015, the IACP issued Improving Officer Response to Persons with Mental Illness and Other Disabilities, an expansion of the 2010 report that provides a broad overview of how law enforcement leaders can improve officer response to persons affected by mental illness. Now we are excited to announce the launch of the One Mind Campaign.

onemindlogoThe One Mind Campaign seeks to ensure successful interactions between police officers and persons affected by mental illness. To join the campaign, law enforcement agencies must commit to implementing the four promising practices over a 12-36 month timeframe. Agencies and organizations demonstrating a serious commitment to implementing all four required strategies will become publicly recognized members of the One Mind Campaign.

The strategies are:

  • Establish a clearly defined and sustainable partnership with one or more community mental health organization(s)
  • Develop and implement a model policy addressing police response to persons affected by mental illness
  • Train and certify 100 percent of your agency’s sworn officers (and selected non-sworn staff, such as dispatchers) in Mental Health First Aid
  • Provide Crisis Intervention Team training to a minimum of 20 percent of your agency’s sworn officers (and selected non-sworn staff, such as dispatchers)

The campaign provides a unique opportunity for law enforcement to make the transition from reacting and responding to these situations toward becoming a proactive leader, with improved response to situations involving this diverse population. Upon launching the campaign at IACP’s Annual Conference in October 2016, the IACP was joined by partners from the National Council for Behavioral Health, CIT International, SAMHSA, the Attorney General’s office and the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Affairs. These representatives stood alongside IACP to announce the launch and expand awareness. The goal of the One Mind Campaign is to create sustainable relationships between police and the mental health community.

For more information visit the One Mind Campaign’s website or contact

Take the pledge today!  

Posted in Community-Police Relations, Partnerships, Policy

IACP Names New Deputy Executive Director, Chief Terrence M. Cunningham

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) is pleased to announce the appointment of Chief Terrence M. Cunningham as its deputy executive director, starting in early 2017. Chief Cunningham succeeds Gwen Boniface who was recently appointed by Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, to the Senate in Canada.

Chief Cunningham previously served as the IACP President from 2015-2016, and has been the Chief of Police of the Wellesley Police Department, Wellesley, Massachusetts, for 17 years.

During his distinguished career in professional policing, he has served as President of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association (MCOPA), and is currently a member of the Executive Board of the MCOPA, the Greater Boston Police Council and the New England Association of Chiefs of Police. He is also a founder and Past President of the Metropolitan Law Enforcement Council (MetroLEC).

“Chief Cunningham has shown an unwavering commitment to the law enforcement profession and the IACP,” said IACP Executive Director/CEO Vincent Talucci. “As President of the IACP, he represented the association and the profession through one of the most challenging times in policing. His over 32 years of experience as a law enforcement officer, his deep understanding of the association, and his policy breadth will be a great asset to the association and the global profession.”

Cunningham is a graduate of the New England Institute of Law Enforcement Management at Babson College, the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy, the Federal Bureau of Investigation Law Enforcement Executive Development Seminar, and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, Executive Education. He holds both a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Northeastern University and a Master’s Degree.

Posted in IACP Leadership | 1 Comment

Statement from IACP President Donald W. De Lucca on Recent Line of Duty Deaths

The month of November has been filled with tragedy for the law enforcement community in the United States. This past Sunday, we experienced yet another line of duty death, bringing this month’s count to ten fatalities. Nine of those ten officer fatalities were caused by gunfire. These deaths continue a horrific trend in 2016. Line of duty deaths in the U.S. have increased by eight percent this year compared to 2015. Additionally, gunfire related deaths are up by an astonishing 70 percent.

This level of violence against the police is simply unacceptable. Sadly, the police are facing an increasing amount of danger, and more horrifying is the fact that much of this danger appears to be acts of violence that target them solely for the profession they chose and the uniform they wear.

Law enforcement officers are the foundation of our society. They have dedicated their lives to keeping their communities safe and protecting the innocent. The loss of even a single officer is a tragedy that makes us all less safe. As we remember and honor these officers and grieve with their families, friends and colleagues, we also continue to pray and hope for the safety of our fellow officers. It is our hope that communities, lawmakers, and others will unite in an effort to support the law enforcement profession during this difficult time and work with us to end this culture of violence.

Posted in Breaking News, Community-Police Relations, Officer Safety & Wellness

New Publication Features Community Policing in Indian Country

November is National Native American Heritage Month, a time set aside for recognition of the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the United States.

This November, IACP and the COPS Office are pleased to announce the release of Promising Practices in Tribal Community Policing, a new publication that highlights the character, professionalism, and spirit of service of law enforcement in tribal communities.

Community policing is not a program or activity in Indian Country; rather, it is a guiding philosophy and way of life. This publication seeks to inform tribal law enforcement leaders and their state, local, and federal partners about effective community policing strategies that address public safety issues in ways that reflect the traditional and current values of the tribes they serve.

Being small and self-governed, tribes are well positioned to engage tribal members in helping to identify and solve safety problems in the community. Tribal law enforcement has the ability to be nimble and, with the support of the tribal government, test new and innovative justice ideas. This publication includes guidance on enhancing and sustaining community policing programs, and it explores law enforcement strategies in the following areas of community policing:

  • Partnerships within tribes and with external stakeholders
  • Crime-focused partnerships
  • Training partnerships
  • Information-sharing partnerships
  • Court partnerships
  • Incorporation of tribal culture and tradition
  • Youth outreach programs

For information about the project, visit the IACP website or contact Jennifer Styles at or 1-800-THE-IACP, ext 804.

To learn more about IACP’s other work with tribal law enforcement, visit the IACP’s Indian Country Law Enforcement Section webpage.

Posted in Community-Police Relations, Indigenous Populations, Sections

Youth Engagement and Intervention: Good Deeds and Everything In-Between

The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing offers several recommendations and action items for building trust and creating opportunities for positive interactions between youth and law enforcement. Highlights of the recommendations include: engaging youth through problem solving, community action programs; developing community and school-based programs that mitigate punitive and authoritarian solutions; and encouraging the use of alternative strategies that involve youth in decision making.

doral-pdThe Doral, Florida, Police Department recognizes that in order to effectively increase the safety and quality of life in the community, each officer must connect with and build trust with young people. The department has implemented many of the Task Force’s recommendations and action items in this area through innovative, broad-based youth outreach programs.

The majority of Doral’s youth programming is managed by the Neighborhood Resource Unit (NRU), a team of five officers and one sergeant. The team actively works together to produce quality community policing-based projects and programs. The NRU coordinates traditional community outreach, like DARE instruction, bullying presentations at local schools, mentoring, DUI prevention presentations, security surveys, Crime Watch programs, canned food drives, a Residential Crime Prevention Initiative, and an annual Shop with a Cop toy drive.

DSC_0098.jpgTwo of Doral’s more noteworthy youth engagement programs are the Juvenile Arrest/Runaway Follow Up Youth Intervention Program and the Project Scout/Good Deed Program.

Juvenile Arrest/Runaway Follow-Up Youth Intervention Program

Officers assigned to the Juvenile Arrest/Runaway Follow-Up Youth Intervention Program make follow-up contacts with any juvenile offender/and or their parents in an effort to prevent and deter future offenses. Any field contacts with juveniles regarding criminal or destructive behavior patterns are forwarded by patrol to the NRU for follow up. NRU officers gain insight into a juvenile’s home life and have an opportunity to provide assistance if necessary by leveraging connections with area resources. This program fosters unique relationships between officers, the juveniles, and their families, showing that the Doral Police Department truly cares about each and every case.

Project Scout/Good Deed Program

The Project Scout/Good Deed Program is an effort to encourage more positive interactions with children in the community. Each NRU officer assigned to the campaign issues at least one “good behavior ticket” in specific communities per day. Officers actively recognize positive behaviors being displayed by the kids. Examples include participation in after school sport programs, community service, or general good behavior. Students get a certificate or prizes donated from local businesses. Not only does this program encourage good behavior and positive actions, but it helps officers connect with youth in schools and in the community in a nonenforcement manner.

The Juvenile Arrest/Runaway Follow-Up Youth Intervention Program and Project Scout/Good Deed Program are just two examples of Doral’s use of creative and alternative methods to encourage positive interactions, build trust, and increase the safety of youth and the community.

The 21st Century Policing Task Force’s youth-focused action items are listed below for your consideration and implementation.

1.5.3 Action Item:  Law enforcement agencies should create opportunities in schools and communities for positive nonenforcement interactions with police.  Agencies should also publicize the beneficial outcomes and images of positive, trust-building partnerships and initiatives. 4.5.2 Action ItemLaw enforcement agencies should engage youth and communities in joint training with law enforcement, citizen academies, ride-alongs, problem solving teams, community action teams, and quality of life teams.
4.6.1. Action Item:  Education and criminal justice agencies at all levels of government should work together to reform policies and procedures that push children into the juvenile justice system. 4.6.2. Action Item: In order to keep youth in school and keep them from criminal and violent behavior, law enforcement agencies should work with schools to encourage the creation of alternatives to student suspensions and expulsion through restorative justice, diversion, counseling, and family interventions
4.6.3 Action Item:  Law enforcement agencies should work with schools to encourage the use of alternative strategies that involve youth in decision making, such as restorative justice, youth courts, and peer interventions. 4.6.4 Action Item:  Law enforcement agencies should work with schools to adopt an instructional approach to discipline that uses interventions or disciplinary consequences to help students develop new behavior skills and positive strategies to avoid conflict, redirect energy, refocus on learning.
4.6.5 Action Item:  Law enforcement agencies should work with schools to develop and monitor school discipline policies with input and collaboration from school personnel, students, families and community members.  These policies should prohibit the use of corporal punishment and electronic control devices. 4.6.6 Action ItemLaw enforcement agencies should work with schools to create a continuum of developmentally appropriate and proportional consequences for addressing ongoing and escalating student misbehavior after all appropriate interventions have been attempted.
4.6.7 Action ItemLaw enforcement agencies should work with communities to play a role in programs and procedures to reintegrate juveniles back into their communities as they leave the juvenile justice system. 4.6.8 Action ItemLaw enforcement agencies and schools should establish memoranda of agreement for the placement of School Resource Officers that limit police involvement in student discipline. 
4.7.1 Action Item:  Communities and law enforcement agencies should restore and build trust between youth and police by creating programs and projects for positive, consistent, and persistent interaction between youth and police. 4.7.2 Action Item:  Communities should develop community and school-based, evidence-based programs that mitigate punitive and authoritarian solutions to teen problems.


This blog post is part of a series highlighting best practices in advancing 21st century policing as part of the IACP Institute for Community-Police Relations. Doral is one of fifteen sites selected for participation in the Advancing 21st Century Policing Initiative, a joint project of the COPS Office, CNA, and the IACP to highlight agencies who are actively embracing the principles in the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

Posted in Community-Police Relations, Youth

New IACP/IACP Net Law Enforcement Benchmarking and Performance Analytics Tool

Improve your agency’s metrics and advance policing. Use data to drive better, more informed decisions with access to peer data and experience.

Sign up for the IACP and IACP Net’s Law Enforcement Benchmarking and Performance Analytics tool today. Complete the annual online survey and see where your department stands among its peers. And, it’s free!

Visit the IACP Benchmarking page, sign up at no charge, input your agency’s information, and immediately query and visualize the results. The user-friendly interface lets you define search criteria and enter records in a secure, online format.


Benchmarking is your new resource for comparative analytics. Benchmarking helps you:

  • Improve agency performance by clearly identifying specific areas of opportunity, setting new performance expectations, and prioritizing next steps.
  • Manage change in the police environment by identifying trending data and validating or disproving assumptions.
  • Make efficient decisions with actions supported by hard data and informed by peer practices.
  • Advance policing through cooperation and data sharing that establishes performance metrics and enhances safety.
  • Gain support from stakeholders and community leaders with documented facts and data visualization that reinforce policing strategies.

Input your data and get comparative knowledge on topics such as:

  • Agency demographics and information – sworn data, assignments, and calls for service.
  • Jurisdiction demographics – population, race, and key features such as college towns.
  • Budget information – jurisdiction, police overtime, training, and outside funding.
  • Salary data – minimum education, chief salary, and median entry-level wage.
  • Crime statistics and clearance rates – violent and property crimes.
  • Use of force – data collecting both displayed and used responses.
  • Officer safety – causes of injury, officer-involved crashes, and policy mandates.
  • Internal affairs – citizen and internal complaints, outcomes, and top reasons.
  • Additional data – traffic crashes and citations, training, fleet, alarms, K-9s, property rooms, and contemporary topics.

Your data in, better policing out. Visit the IACP Benchmarking page today for more information.

Posted in Information Sharing, Technology