CITY OF BURLINGTON,
The Chittenden Unit for Special Investigations (CUSI)
The Chittenden Unit for Special Investigations (CUSI) is the result of an effort to create an investigative unit to deal with sexual assaults, sexual abuse, serious child abuse and lewd and lascivious conduct within Chittenden County. In 1992, law enforcement, prosecution and other interested parties formed the policy board which created the existing infrastructure for CUSI. Investigators from Colchester, Essex, South Burlington, state police and Burlington are contributed as full-time investigators dedicated to the unit. A full-time victim advocate, charged with the responsibility of continued interaction and guidance of victims, is part of the staff.
A fundamental goal of CUSI is to generate the highest quality criminal investigationgs for sexual assault and abuse-related offenses. CUSI investigators receive specialized training and emphasize minimizing the trauma to victims. The Chittenden County State Attorney's Office assigns a prosecutor as a liaison to the unit to insure that the unit has adequate legal assistance and guidance.
The offices of CUSI are located in a non-police environment at Fort Ethan Allen in Colchester. The structure is a brick, single-family type building which provides a residential-like setting for children. The offices for the investigators and the victim advocate are also included in this building. The office includes a videotape interview room, which allows parents to view interviews of their children via video, while also recording the interviews of victims for evidence.
The policy board for CUSI is composed of representatives from the community. Town managers, law enforcement representatives, attorneys, victim advocates and social service representatives provide a unique combination that steers the unit and establishes the goals and objectives for the future.
Investigations conducted by CUSI are usually generated from external sources such as local law enforcement or the Department of Social Services. In cases where the victim has contacted a law enforcement official, the officer conducts a "first response" investigation to assure the victim's safety, preserve any valuable information and protect evidence that may exist as a result of the incident. Uniformed police officers from area communities have attended first response training that is presented by CUSI staff; the training was last provided in August of 1996. CUSI personnel support the first response officers throughout the preliminary phase and cases are then forwarded to CUSI for continued investigation. Other sources of referral are from care providers, family members, medical personnel and the Department of Social Services.
One of the goals established when CUSI was conceived was to provide training to community persons who are involved in providing services to sexual assault and abuse victims and their families. In fiscal 1996, CUSI investigators participated in a variety of training sessions for educators, child care providers and medical professionals to assure the understanding of laws related to the reporting of sexual assault, abuse and physical abuse cases.
CUSI staff have also been responsible for the training of all Vermont law enforcement officers who attend the basic Vermont Police Academy Training. Among the issues addressed are juvenile and adult victim interaction, offender analysis and confrontation and case management.
CUSI investigators are involved in training officers in the area of evidence collection. CUSI has collaborated in the design of the sexual assault evidence kits utilized throughout the state of Vermont. The first responder program for uniformed officers is the vital first step in the process toward assuring a strong case for prosecution. Offered in 1996, the program will again be offered in the fall of 1997 to Chittenden County police, as well as those agencies which participate in CUSI's related project, NUSI (Northwest Unit for Special Investigations).
Finally, the education of CUSI staff is only as good as the training they receive. As a result of donations from the Vermont Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Sexual Abuse, CUSI officers have received the highest level of instruction in suspect interview techniques, legal issues and considerations and evidence collection.
CUSI is the product of a grass-roots governmental effort at creating an investigative unit to meet a highly specialized need. To that end, Chittenden County law enforcement, prosecution and social services have formed a group that meets the challenge. CUSI has an annual budget of $350,000 in funding from grants, in-kind contributions, and cash provisions from the communities served. This funding supports the work of six police personnel, three civilian employees, five volunteers and a policy board of ten people.
CONTACT: Andi Higbee, Coordinator, 1110 Ethan Allen Avenue, Colchester, T 05446, Telephone - (802) 655-7710, Fax - (802) 655-2866.
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.