Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced new guidelines on Wednesday that will help law enforcement agencies handle human trafficking cases.
As part of the state’s Women’s Equality Agenda in 2015, Cuomo signed legislation requiring the New York State Municipal Police Training Council to develop a model for police departments and sheriffs' offices to follow.
State police were also, under the new law, required to develop their own procedures for human trafficking cases.
Cuomo said the new guidelines will not only help police identify and prosecute human traffickers, they will – most importantly – help victims get the assistance they need.
Law enforcement officers “are on the front lines” and the state must “ensure they are well-prepared to help identify and put a stop to these heinous criminal enterprises," the governor said.
Because victims are often deeply traumatized by their traffickers and terrified of law enforcement, the Council’s policy offers procedures for police to coordinate investigations with trauma specialists.
It also advises them to focus interviews on the victims’ living or working conditions and/or any abuse they may have suffered.
In order to lower anxiety levels, police are advised to conduct interviews in “non-law enforcement surroundings” when possible -- and without the presence of uniformed officers.
Victims will be referred, Cuomo said, to state agencies where they can get services such as safe housing or crisis intervention.
Under the policy, law enforcement will be trained about the use of visa or immigration forms needed to assist victims who are not U.S. citizens.
In those cases, police will have access to information and resources that can be used to connect victims with state and federal assistance.
Cuomo noted that police departments and sheriffs' offices are not obligated to adopt the Council's model policy.
The model is instead, he said, designed to provide “guidance and best practices” so each agency can develop a policy based on its individual needs and circumstances.
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