Law enforcement has a tradition of “roll call” training sessions that last 10–20 minutes before deploying a team to duty. This is a good model for the task force. Rotating “roll call” training sessions among the task force members gives them the opportunity to share their expertise.
Task force meetings are the cornerstone of the group’s development. The meeting is the basis for relationship building, training, exchange of ideas, problem solving, resolving conflicts, innovation, recovering from shortfalls, and celebrating successes.
The meeting environment should be welcoming, safe for expression of thoughts and concerns by individual task force members, and offer protection from inappropriate or personal attacks. The meeting should be conducted to achieve its intended purpose, yet not so rigid as to discourage a newly discovered and beneficial area of discussion.
Typically, task forces convene all members on a regular basis and immediately after, the various committees meet separately (if applicable). Task force meetings can be convened in one location (public space offered by community centers or libraries) or at member organization’s office on a rotating basis. Often, there is a feeling that the larger meeting is not as important or useful, but it is important to acknowledge that these meetings serve as an opportunity for all to come together and be aware of and learn from each other’s work.
The fundamental purpose of the task force meeting is for participants to leave more equipped and enabled to combat human trafficking. Meetings, therefore, should be planned and purposeful.
Key Considerations for Your Task Force Meetings
Conduct roundtable name, role, and organization introductions at every meeting. This is particularly important in the startup period of the task force. The ritual validates and honors the individuals and the agencies they represent.
Meet with consistency. Meeting attendance is more consistent when participants routinely anticipate it at a set time, space, and environment. In a newly formed task force, it is recommended that a meeting be conducted at least once per month for the first 6 months, with a focus on relationship building. Later, meetings may take place quarterly or semi-annually if committee meetings are conducted more regularly.
Meetings are facilitated by an agenda. A member of the task force or a meeting facilitator is recommended for the initial meetings. In time, skilled members from the team may take this role in rotations. Agenda items should be solicited in advance of the meeting.
Preservation of confidentiality is critical. The level of disclosure among task force members is dependent upon the strength of the relationships, the necessity of disclosure, and the purpose of disclosure. Routine reminders of respect for confidentiality as a team value are essential, particularly if discussing current cases. See Section 3.2 on Confidentiality for additional information.
Ongoing training is an integral aspect of the team interaction. When the task force is envisioned as a continuous learning organization, members look forward to what they will learn at each meeting. “I learn something every time I come here” should be commonly heard.
Searching for Technical Assistance for Your Task Force? Contact OVC TTAC
The Office for Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center (OVC TTAC) maintains a consultant database of subject matter experts who are available to provide consultation, training, and technical assistance to task forces, law enforcement, and victim service agencies. OVC TTAC also delivers training by request to support specific needs or issues your task torce may be facing. Training and technical assistance is available in person, or via Webinar and phone.
Sharing information is an integral responsibility of the team members. Everyone was brought to the table for a reason, so it is important to include everyone in discussions where relevant. For instance, victim service providers working closely with victims may have important knowledge or evidence for the investigation. While it is understood that law enforcement cannot share sensitive details of a case, some level of information needs to be shared on all sides so that everyone remains informed. Information sharing should take place at the committee level or at meetings of agencies directly involved in a specific case.
Time set aside for networking is time well spent. Setting a time for informal team building is important.
The organization that institutionalizes feedback is destined to improve. Asking “How are we doing?” frequently, with an intent to refine and develop based upon the feedback, is the hallmark of a learning and improving organization. One way to do this is to keep data on the number of victims identified, types of investigation, training audiences, and analyzing data together to identify gaps and any indicators of where more attention and resources are needed.
Ensure project and special task accomplishment through committee assignmentsbased on an action plan and a scheduled report-back period. The level of experience and expertise among task force members becomes an asset to the team’s development and capacity. Training, outreach, and other tasks and projects developed out of an annual action plan typically show progressive improvements over time.