Division of Criminal Justice Services

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Janine Kava, Press Office, New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services
(518) 457-8906 or cell: (518) 275-5508
Lt. Nathan Achtziger, North Tonawanda Police Department
(716) 692-4119 or cell: (716) 536-3641
For immediate release: Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2009

Effective investigation of serious child abuse, fatality cases
Nearly 50 law enforcement, social services professionals from Western New York to attend state-sponsored training in North Tonawanda today

It is one of the most difficult calls that law enforcement, social services or emergency medical professionals respond to: the serious injury to, or death of, a child while in the care of a babysitter, relative or parent.

The manner in which the case is handled from the outset – ranging from the questions that are asked to the evidence that is preserved and collected – can make all the difference in determining whether the child’s injuries or death were non-accidental and, if so, whether the case is successfully prosecuted.

Nearly 50 law enforcement and social services officials from Western New York today attended a full-day training designed to teach effective techniques for investigating and prosecuting fatal and serious physical injury child abuse cases. Sponsored by the Office of Public Safety at the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Service (DCJS), the training was the first of nine on the topic scheduled to be held across the state through May of 2010.

“Responding to a call involving the unexpected death or injury to a child or infant is one of the most challenging an officer or caseworker can deal with, as they must be sensitive to both the needs of the victim and the caregiver, while also preserving the integrity of a possible crime scene,” said Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Denise E. O’Donnell, who also serves as DCJS commissioner.

“Through our Office of Public Safety, DCJS is committed to providing law enforcement and social services professionals with training that allows them to enhance their skills so they can better serve and protect their communities,” Deputy Secretary O’Donnell added.

Law enforcement officials from the following 10 agencies in Allegany, Cattaraugus, Erie and Niagara counties attended training: Department of Social Services in Allegany and Cattaraugus counties; police departments in Hamburg, Lewiston, Lockport, North Tonawanda and Tonawanda; the Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s Office in Niagara County; and the State University of New York.

The training explored a variety of topics, including: the roles and responsibilities of first responders to an infant or child death or serious physical injury call; the importance of medical evidence; the steps to take to obtain appropriate evidence to determine whether a child’s injuries or death ser non-accidental; and the evidence collection that increases the chances of a successful prosecution if criminality is found.

The training was taught by a three-person team of experts from New York’s Capital Region: Andra Ackerman, a seasoned sex crimes and child abuse prosecutor who is the director of human trafficking policy and prevention at DCJS; Schenectady Police Det. Sgt. Arthur Zampella, a 30-year veteran who serves as commanding officer of the department’s Youth Aid Bureau; and Dr. John Waldman, a pediatric neurosurgeon with nearly 40 years of experience.

The eight remaining trainings will be held:

Monday, Oct. 19: Erie County Central Police Services Public Safety Training Academy

Wednesday, Dec. 9: Rockland County Police and Public Safety Academy

  • Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010: Mohawk Valley Police Academy, Oneida County
  • Wednesday, Feb. 10: DCJS Training Classroom (80 Wolf Road), Albany County
  • Wednesday, March 10: Suffolk County Police Academy
  • Wednesday, March 24: Clinton County 9-1-1 Center
  • Wednesday, April 14: Nassau County Police Academy

Wednesday, May 5: Monroe County Public Safety Training Facility

DCJS is a multi-function criminal justice support agency with a variety of responsibilities, including collection and analysis of statewide crime data; operation of the DNA databank and criminal fingerprint files; administration of federal and state criminal justice funds; and support of criminal justice-related agencies across the state.

The Office of Public Safety at DCJS provides training, continuing education and support to law enforcement agencies and personnel across the state, in addition to administering the Law Enforcement Accreditation Program and operating an equipment repair center, where law enforcement agencies can bring their speed and alcohol detection instruments for repair and calibration.