Law Enforcement Committee

The law enforcement committee is often composed of “law enforcement only” agencies that meet regularly (usually once a month) to develop data-informed human trafficking risk assessments, share intelligence, identify potential targets, and strategize ongoing or future investigations and prosecutions. Usually these committees are led by a prosecutor. In each meeting, the prosecutor runs through a list or case log of matters at various stages in the legal process in order to de-conflict and coordinate investigations, and follow up on cases already pending in court or the grand jury.

Local partners at Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) can obtain access to other, more secure, forms of intelligence.

By pooling assets among its membership, the law enforcement committee improves case results. Federal agencies working human trafficking cases get access to more criminal intelligence and potential case leads from local law enforcement. Local police departments get help with investigative resources and federal tools to support victims and witnesses, including immigration relief, out-of-state subpoena power, and complex analytics or linguistic services. Another strategy to increase resource collaboration is through the designation of state or local law enforcement as task force officers with federal law enforcement. Both ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations and the FBI can cross-designate state and local officers as federal law enforcement. This can help remove potential jurisdictional barriers and allow law enforcement to work more efficiently through local, state, and federal statutes in their criminal cases.

Joint leadership of the law enforcement committee by both the state and federal prosecutor remains an essential factor in success. While some task force models perform extremely well under the leadership of a single police department or a small group of investigative agencies, such configurations often run the risk of discouraging full investment by other investigative entities that remain reluctant to subject themselves to the supervision of another police department. All investigators, however, must already submit their case referrals to the state and/or federal prosecutors for charging approval, so the law enforcement committee model fosters law enforcement cooperation not only between law enforcement agencies but also with the state and federal prosecutors who can serve as mediators and advisors for the group as a whole.

Smart Tip: By involving prosecutors in the law enforcement committee from the outset, you front load institutional buy-in by these prosecutors, hopefully resulting in more cases being charged. In the end, no task force model will be fully effective in the absence of successfully charged case referrals.

The law enforcement committee gains significant advantages by employing the guidance of both state and federal prosecutors at the outset of investigations. This structure allows multiple investigative agencies to resolve turf disputes, share criminal intelligence and informants, allocate resources to the most promising leads, and assess investigations. Consider cross-designation of local prosecutors as federal Assistant U.S. Attorneys. That way you have options for prosecuting that can pull from both state and federal laws. During the investigation, there may be advantages to going state or federal. By cross-designating, you have the option of either, without having to bring on another prosecutor from a different agency.

The collaborative framework of the law enforcement committee helps to bridge the common cultural gaps between investigators and prosecutors and between federal and local authorities. When working properly, the collaborative approach of the law enforcement committee sends defendants for prosecution in either the state or federal system (or both) based on the facts and needs of each case. As such, federal prosecution is not considered a preferred result and state prosecution is not considered merely a fall-back outcome. With this approach, the work of human trafficking task forces can and should remain vital in both the state and federal systems. This is important now that all 50 states have made human trafficking a serious criminal offense.

By complying with the rules regulating the disclosure of grand jury and other law enforcement-sensitive materials in each case, the law enforcement committee sessions encourage frank conversations among the various agencies. Plus, the law enforcement committee can pool the members' resources to work against the human trafficking targets in the area (including using administrative partners to pursue non-criminal remedies as needed).

Another benefit of the law enforcement committee concept lies in its ability to avoid "meeting burn-out” (the discouraging sense of “meetings for the sake of meetings”) for those law enforcement professionals who work trafficking cases over a long period of time. By limiting the number of law enforcement committee sessions to approximately 6–12 per year, and by focusing the meetings, the law enforcement committee keeps its members energized by maintaining a case-directed, law enforcement purpose for each session. Issues more relevant to organizational leadership, such as building collaborative outreach and education initiatives, can be addressed at other meetings.

Law enforcement committee members can complement criminal investigations with civil actions by including partners such as the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigators. Additionally, by producing and consuming criminal intelligence on a regional rather than national level, the law enforcement committee remains large enough to “connect the dots” on multijurisdictional cases, but local enough to act on intelligence effectively, in a timely manner, and with ownership.

Establish a clear referral process between law enforcement and victim service providers. The law enforcement committee should be able to work closely with the victim services committee (see next section) to ensure that all identified human trafficking victims receive the full range of needed services. Through the law enforcement committee, it should be clear whom to contact and how to bring forward a potential victim who is identified by a victim service provider. Likewise, when working a case through the task force, identifying the lead point of contact for the victim service provider within the law enforcement team will help avoid miscommunication and enhance results that further support a victim and their participation in a criminal investigation.

Lastly, it is important to emphasize that the law enforcement committee identify and provide appropriate introduction and ongoing internal law enforcement training to fellow officers, agents, and cadets.

For additional information and tools, visit the Resource page for Section 3.1 Task Force Membership & Management.