County Executive forms sexual assault investigations task force

Baltimore CountyTOWSON, MD – County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Jr. on Monday announced the formation of a Sexual Assault Investigations Task Force. The task force will examine current investigation and prosecution policies, practices, and training related to sexual assault complaints, including review of past casefiles.

Earlier this month, the County Executive asked the police department to discontinue the use of sexual assault confidential release authorizations.

The task force consists of a diverse array of talented and knowledgeable individuals who understand the sensitivity and complexities of sexual assault investigations.

“Residents of Baltimore County have the right to feel safe in their community. Our residents deserve to know that, when they are the victim of sexual assault, law enforcement will respond with all of the resources at their disposal to bring justice. Too often in the past, this hasn’t always been the case,” said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Jr. “I was disappointed when I heard about the excessive use of Confidential Release Authorizations and I immediately asked Chief Terry Sheridan to suspend this practice.”

The scope of their review will include the following:

  • Examine current investigation and prosecution policies, practices, and training related to sexual assault complaints, including review of past case files.
  • Review training for law enforcement officials involved in the response to sexual assault allegations, ensuring investigations are victim-centered and trauma-informed.
  • Review data related to sexual assault investigations, ensuring proper tracking and accountability mechanisms are in place.
  • Assess resources available for investigating sexual assault complaints and testing old and new rape kits, and make adjustments as necessary.

Research and recommending implementation of national best practices, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police Trauma Informed Sexual Assault Investigation Training, which provides law enforcement and multi-disciplinary partners with information on the neurobiology of trauma and investigative strategies to respond to sexual assault crimes in a victim-centered, trauma-informed manner.

The County has also partnered with Baltimore County’s rape crisis center, TurnAround, to promote their helpline which is staffed by trained advocates and available to survivors 24/7. The helpline is available to anyone that would like to speak to someone about sexual assault, get advice on reporting an incident, request services, or speak to someone about a previously reported case. Advocates can be reached at 443-279-0379.

“We are delighted that County Executive Johnny Olszewski took decisive action when confronted with this practice,” said CEO of TurnAround Rosalyn Branson. “I am pleased to assist in establishing best practices for survivors of sexual assault.”

The task force members are:

• Sheryl Goldstein, the Vice President of the Abell Foundation, who will chair the task force.

• David Thomas, a Program Manager with the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

• Rosalyn Branson, the CEO of TurnAround.

• Laura Clary, a Program Manager, at GBMC for the sexual assault forensic exam or SAFE Program.

• John Cox, the Deputy State’s Attorney from the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office.

• Lt. Brian Edwards, Commander of the Baltimore County Police Department’s Special Victim’s Unit.

• Nadia BenAissa, a student at UMBC/We Believe You.

“I was honored to chair the public safety portion of the County Executive’s transition team,” said Goldstein. “I am pleased to be part of this task force working to improve systems for handling sexual assault cases and improving outcomes for victims.”

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