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EVAWI > Resources > Best Practices > FAQs > Caseloads
Q What is the standard caseload for detectives investigating sexual assault cases?
A What is the standard caseload for detectives investigating sexual assault cases?

Though there is no official industry standard for how many cases a detective investigating sexual assault should carry, there are some informal standards that departments across the country have been using. Here are a few examples:

In Portland, Oregon, an audit was conducted in June 2007 which included a review of data from nine additional cities.  They concluded that the average detective “had a median annual caseload of 54, compared to Portland’s five year average of 56.”

In a second report entitled: Allocation of Personnel: Investigations, author William Prummell identified the industry standard for a detective working major crimes (other than homicide) as 6-8 cases per month or 72-96 cases per year.   He then utilized a formula and case assignment criteria from the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office in Florida and determined that detectives in that agency working major crimes (other than homicide) were assigned an average of 6 cases per month or 72 cases per year.  This is on the lower end of the industry standard, but otherwise demonstrates consistency between the theory of an industry standard and the practice in at least this one particular agency.

Further connecting the theory of industry standards to the daily practice of working detectives, we provide two examples below of written performance evaluations that incorporated caseload information.  These performance evaluations were written by Sgt. Joanne Archambault while she supervised the Sex Crimes Unit of the San Diego Police Department.  The number of cases assigned to these detectives is considerably higher than the standards outlined above.  At the same time, it is important to understand that every felony sexual assault was assigned for follow-up and detectives were required to submit through documentation of their investigative follow-up on every case assigned.  Therefore, he following examples are used to demonstrate not only the volume of cases for each detective, but also how caseloads should be managed.  Both evaluations thus place a high value on criteria that are not traditionally emphasized, including: investigative skills, understanding of the dynamics of sexual assault investigations, rapport with victims, report writing, and record keeping.

For example, both investigators are recognized for having a high percentage of their cases referred to the District Attorney’s office result in a charge, because this is an indicator that their investigations were thorough and well documented. In one example, the investigator is also rewarded for actively pursuing investigations where victims have been initially uncooperative, because he was able to establish sufficient rapport with these victims to encourage and support their participation. By highlighting these values, these sex crimes investigators were recognized for their job performance without placing undue emphasis on case outcomes within the criminal justice system.

Example 1: Mark was assigned to investigate 94 cases in 2006. As of the first week of January 2007, he had 29 cases pending disposition. 56% of the 25 cases he cancelled were charged by the District Attorney’s office. Only 8% of his cases were cancelled because the victim declined prosecution. 4% were unfounded. The unit average for cases cancelled VDP is 20%, and 12% for unfounded. Some might argue that these statistics reflect the special circumstances involving unlawful sexual intercourse cases. However, the second detective working these same cases cancelled 26% of his cases VDP, and 19% unfounded. Only 36% of his cases were charged. I believe the data reflects Mark’s understanding of the dynamics involved in sexual assault investigations. He has actively pursued many investigations where the victims have been uncooperative and in many cases, he has developed enough rapport with the victim that she has agreed to participate in the criminal justice system. The high percentage of cases charged also demonstrates Mark’s investigative ability and his exceptional report writing skills.

Example 2: Vanessa has outstanding caseload management skills. She was assigned 86 cases to investigate in 2006, the second highest caseload in the Unit. However, when I ran the statistics around the first of February 2007, Vanessa only had 8 open cases. Another striking note is that 51, or 59% of her cases were cancelled. 43% of her cases were referred to the DA’s office and 49% were issued, indicating that Vanessa’s investigations are thorough and well documented. Vanessa is also very meticulous about her records. She is one of the few detectives I know who consistently goes back to check the status of the cases she has referred to the DA’s office for review or warrants. She meticulously revises her paperwork to reflect the current status of each case resulting in up-to-date and accurate case status reports.

For more information about the  information that can be incorporated in the performance evaluation of sex crimes investigators – and the values of the agency that are reflected in such oversight and accountability -- please see the OnLine Training Institute training module entitled: Clearance Methods for Sexual Assault cases.  In that module, we provide information for law enforcement officers, investigators, and supervisors who make decisions regarding how to clear or otherwise close sexual assault cases. These determinations can be extremely difficult, yet many law enforcement personnel are provided little or no guidance in how to make them appropriately.

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