When it comes to fighting human trafficking, it takes multiple organizations working together to take down traffickers, and this includes law enforcement. Typically when we think of trafficking sting operations we think of the FBI, but members of law enforcement play a critical role in taking down perpetrators and rescuing victims of human trafficking.
Why Do Police Officers Need Human Trafficking Training?
While human trafficking is often framed as a social justice issue, it is also a criminal act. Raising awareness is, therefore, critical for law enforcement agencies. Police officers cannot uphold human trafficking laws if they don’t know what they are or what their role is. Law enforcement agencies can build awareness in their programs by doing some or all of the following:
1. Educate Officers Through Seminars/Lectures:
Before officers hit the streets (and periodically throughout their career), they need human trafficking education. Specifically, they need to know what human trafficking is, what it looks like in real life, what types of trafficking are out there (sex trafficking isn’t the only one), what questions to ask, and who the victims are.
2. Provide Officers With Local Resources and Knowledge of Local Trafficking Laws:
If they see signs of human trafficking or receive a tip from a citizen, officers need to know how to proceed. Who do they call? What should they do/not do? What sort of information should they collect?
3. Have Officers Role Play Practice Scenarios:
Taking down traffickers requires patience and careful planning. Just because an officer sees something that looks “off” doesn’t mean they can or should address that situation alone. Trafficking rings can be dangerous, so officers need to understand the risks and be taught when to spring into action and when to practice restraint.
4. Encourage Officers to Ask Questions About Human Trafficking:
We can’t assume every officer knows all that they need to know about human trafficking. Giving officers plenty of opportunities to ask questions is essential in order to pinpoint a department’s weaknesses and bolster their anti-trafficking efforts.
5. Train Officers to Take Patrol Seriously:
Prioritizing patrol needs to be foundational to every law enforcement department’s approach to human trafficking because police presence plays a significant role in the abatement of crime. Consequently, training officers to take patrol seriously is critical. When law enforcement patrol human trafficking “hot spots,” they will more than likely see a decrease of activity in that area.
Law enforcement officers swear to protect and serve their communities, and if they are to do that well, improving their training is essential. The human trafficking industry destroys individuals, breaks apart families, cripples our economy, and degrades human beings. Forced labor, coerced sex acts, and profiting by way of manipulation are all serious offenses that must have consequences. It is essential, therefore, that law enforcement receive adequate training on human trafficking so that they can be catalysts for change.