Forming a Task Force

A task force should have a mission, a clearly defined purpose, goals, and objectives [PDF 940KB].

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Legislatively mandated task forces often prescribe the membership, duties, and other characteristics based on the state laws that enact the task force. A state-mandated task force, however, should not be used in lieu of a local task force. In many cases, state-mandated task forces are administrative in nature and may not deliver the same results as local multidisciplinary collaborations.

Regardless of individual leadership or financial resources, a key responsibility of task force efforts should include the development of protocols, MOUs, and decision-making practices to ensure the sustainability of the task force efforts in the future. This is vital as, over time, personnel involved in the task force's efforts and the organizations responsible for key activities may change.

The task force has a responsibility to avoid prioritizing one type of trafficking over another, as all victims have the right to protection from their traffickers and support in rebuilding their lives. Identifying how all victims can be served is important, as members will have varying experiences in supporting different victim populations. Ensure that task force members are sharing information about trends and potential victims.

Task forces with effective collaboration find partners to be the greatest strength in fighting this crime and supporting its victims, and a valued resource rather than an impediment.

Each task force is uniquely structured to meet local needs and accommodate local dynamics. With any model outlined below, members share the initial responsibilities to:

  • Research and analyze the feasibility of forming a task force.
  • Develop the framework for task force structure, operations, roles, and membership.
  • Serve as champions and advocates for the formation of the task force.
  • Seek out funding and other support for task force operations.
  • Ensure that clear, reasonable, and achievable initial goals are set.
  • Select a task force leader/coordinator.
  • Meet regularly to steer task force development.
  • Plan and coordinate the initial training sessions.

At the start, agencies that will make up the task force may not have direct experience in human trafficking. All initial task force members should at least:

  • Have some expertise in working with potential victim populations.
    • To include adequately licensed and trained to work with such victims.
  • Recognize why the complexities of this problem demand a multidisciplinary, collaborative, and victim-centered response.
  • Be committed to working in that way to address the issues.
  • Develop a shared understanding of human trafficking, and relevant laws and policies.

Choosing where to house the criminal investigative unit is an important decision for law enforcement. Investigating human trafficking is best centered within an investigative unit that broadly focuses on the collection, aggregation, and analysis of criminal operations. The broader the view of the possibilities, the broader the net casted to draw in human trafficking operations. Task forces are encouraged to dedicate law enforcement personnel by assigning and funding one or two full-time investigators who are supported by patrol officers and an intelligence function. The core team member from local law enforcement may be that dedicated investigator, or it may be someone higher up the chain of command. Vice units tend to focus on the area of investigation for which they are trained, resulting in many of those units' human trafficking investigations to focus on sex trafficking. Investigation of human trafficking in bureaus or units that have a broader crime focus and are linked to the collection and analysis of more diverse streams of criminal and suspicious activity, may increase the likelihood of discovering all forms of human trafficking, including sex and labor trafficking in all its forms.

For additional information and tools, visit the Resource page for Section 2.1: Forming A Task Force