FORENSIC INTERVIEW ROOM FOR CHILDREN … Will feature comfortable furnishings, toys, and other things to make a child victim feel at ease when sharing their experience as shown in this example photo. (PHOTO PROVIDED BY SARAH’S FRIENDS)
By: Amy Wendt
Collaboration between the Bryan Police Department and Sarah’s Friends has led to the future development of a forensic interview room.
The forensic interview room is a much-needed space that will provide comfort and safety to children who are victims of abuse or witnesses to violent crimes.
The need for such a space became apparent to Captain Jamie Mendez of the Bryan City Police Department, who also serves as one of the department’s forensic interviewers.
After interviewing many people over the years, Mendez knows that children who are victims of sexual assault or witnesses to violent crimes need a comfortable and calming environment to disclose their experiences.
When children are interviewed in a traditional interrogation room, it can be intimidating, and some children may feel like they are being treated as an offender rather than a victim.
Mendez discussed the need with Police Chief Gregory Ruskey who offered to house the interviewing space in a currently unused room located in the Bryan Fire Department/Police Department building.
To get the ball rolling with outfitting the room, Mendez reached out to Katie Shaffer, Executive Director of Sarah’s Friends, to discuss what items and furnishings were needed to make it a safe space for children to share their experiences.
The room will be equipped with comfortable furniture, toys, and other items that will help the children feel at home and at ease.
The room will also have audio and visual equipment to help gather the evidence needed for investigations.
Interviews are recorded, so the child only has to go through the difficult process of telling their story once.
The room will be available for use by any law enforcement agency or child protective service agency in Williams County.
If enough donations are received through Sarah’s Friends, the space will be properly equipped at no cost to City of Bryan taxpayers.
The Bryan Police Department is committed to ensuring that its officers have access to training in forensic interviewing.
At the end of the year, six officers will be trained in the specialized technique, and the department is also sending all of its School Resource Officers (SROs) to learn.
According to Mendez, SROs are an excellent choice for forensic interview training because they already have a rapport with the children they interact with, and children will feel more comfortable disclosing sensitive information to an officer they already know.
Sarah’s Friends, which was founded in 1991, is a non-profit organization that provides compassionate support and individualized services to victims of crime in Williams County to help them heal emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
The non-profit will be receiving all donations for the project and will then purchase the items needed to equip the room.
The collaboration between the Bryan Police Department and Sarah’s Friends is a significant step in providing support and services to victims of domestic violence and crime in Williams County.
Members of the public can support the establishment of the forensic interview room by directing donations to Sarah’s Friends, Inc. at 201 S. Main Street, P.O. Box 907, Bryan, Ohio 43506.
Online donations are also accepted at https://www.sarahsfriends.org/donate.
Amy can be reached at email@example.com