Many victim service provider and law enforcement organizations are challenged by their capacity to release personnel to participate in operations that remove them from their core responsibilities. Victim service providers often have personnel fulfilling multiple responsibilities, with large caseloads, in addition to being organizational experts on human trafficking. Likewise, law enforcement officers carry large caseloads and, in some instances, operate as generalist investigators across multiple crime categories, including human trafficking.
Time is a large constraint on task force members, due to the length of time needed for a successful trafficking investigation and the constraints of non-task force work obligations. Time pressures can leave members feeling overwhelmed and pulled in competing directions. High rates of turnover can greatly set back a task force, particularly when an active and engaged member leaves and there are no written protocols in place for a new person to easily assume those responsibilities. Loss of team members is disruptive to rapport and relationship building. It also affects other members’ confidence in the agency’s commitment to the task force. Organizations must make every effort to avoid burnout and turnover of personnel who participate on the task force.
Some ways to address issues around retention of task force leaders and members include:
•Develop detailed member contingency plans and protocols for any necessary member replacement. Turnover is a challenge in the fields of law enforcement and victim services in general, and that must be anticipated from the outset.
•Create strong MOUs that outline specific roles and responsibilities (see Section 3.1 on Memorandums of Understanding) to ease transition of new task force members. Consider appointing someone to orient or mentor any new members.
•Ensure that task force meeting minutes are accessible to new members through a task force Web site or electronic document-sharing system as a means of sharing institutional knowledge.
•Request transition memos from outgoing committee chairs to facilitate new and effective leadership.
•Consider making leadership roles time-limited (1–2 years), which may be more manageable and increase interest from others in taking on tasks.
•Encourage member organizations to assign more than one person to the task force. These personnel should play a strong liaison role within their own organizations about the activities of the task force.
•Provide written protocols to help explain the role that the agency or individual is to play when new task force members are needed. Always keep in mind the mission and purpose of the task force. Several task forces report that having a dedicated staff or a trusted team to share the work helps ease the burden of limited resources and time.
For additional information and tools, visit the Resource page for Section 3.4 Addressing Common Operational Challenges.