Saturday, August 20, 2011

WIFLE Launches Executive Leadership Institute to Address Important Issues for Women in Law Enforcement

by Women in Federal Law Enforcement (WIFLE)
The Women in Federal Law Enforcement (WIFLE) Foundation launched the WIFLE Executive Leadership Institute (WELI) at its recent annual leadership training conference in June. WELI hopes to expand the leadership and vision of federal managers and executives by examining issues affecting women in the United States and abroad. WELI is for women in leadership within law enforcement and those who help women rise into these positions, as women are the most underrepresented group in sworn law enforcement positions.

The WELI looks at issues affecting all women. Research indicates that women address violence against women more effectively than their male counterparts. In addition, violence against women is an issue constantly in the public domain, whether it is the Jaycee Duggard case, the trafficking of children in the United States or the mistreatment of women across the globe.

One issue the WELI has been examining is the definition of rape. Law enforcement officers are familiar with the Uniform Crime Report (UCR). The UCR is the "bible" for law enforcement statistics and assists with the allocation of resources used by federal agencies, as well as local and state police agencies. In the UCR, forcible rape is defined as "the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will," and is the only type of rape included in the statistics. Moreover, this limited definition affects the perception of what constitutes "real rape." The UCR Manual directs that "[a]gencies must not classify statutory rape, incest, or other sex offenses, i.e. forcible sodomy, sexual assault with an object, forcible fondling, etc. as forcible rape."

The undercounting of rape, in comparison with other major crimes, naturally reduces the allocation of resources for sexual assault enforcement. If the problem seems much smaller than it actually is, it will inevitably result in fewer resources being allocated to it.

Throughout its first 60 years, the UCR remained virtually unchanged in terms of the data collected and disseminated. In the late 1970s, the law enforcement community called for a thorough evaluative study of UCR in order to create an expanded and enhanced UCR to meet law enforcement needs of the 21st century. Following a multiyear study, a "Blueprint for the Future of the Uniform Crime Reporting Program" was developed. Using the "Blueprint", and in consultation with local and state law enforcement executives, new guidelines for Uniform Crime Reports were formulated and the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) was created to meet these guidelines.

NIBRS offers law enforcement and the academic community more comprehensive data for management, training, planning and research. In addition, it uses the expanded definition of rape and sexual assault. The implementation of NIBRS is dependent on the resources, abilities and limitations of the contributing law enforcement agencies. According to the website of the National Archive Criminal Justice Data, while NIBRS is being implemented, the traditional UCR reporting format is still being used extensively. In addition, currently there are 32 states that are ready to report statistics to NIBRS, but only 16 states do so.

During August 16-18, 2011, in Pittsburgh, Pa., the Criminal Justice Information Systems (CJIS) working groups are meeting to discuss a change to the UCR definition of rape. They will formalize their recommendation to the CJIS subcommittee scheduled to meet in October. From the subcommittee meetings in October, a final recommendation will be prepared and presented to the CJIS Policy Board in December. The FBI will adopt the CJIS Policy Board's recommendation.

WIFLE believes in a common sense approach to capturing the accurate number of rapes and sexual assaults in this country, so women have the proper resources and services available. The definition of rape should be updated to the now current NIBRS definition which is defined generally for sex offenses as "any sexual act against another person, forcibly and/or against the person's will; or not forcibly and against the person's will, where the victim is incapable of giving consent."

If the NIBRS definition of rape is substituted for the UCR definition, we can be assured that 95 percent of the police departments currently reporting UCR statistics to the FBI will continue to report under this expanded definition. WIFLE hopes to see the CJIS Policy Board's recommendation include the expanded definition of rape.

For more information about WIFLE, please visit the WIFLE website