Legislature(1995 - 1996)
02/09/1996 09:00 AM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SHESS - 2/9/96 SB 188 VIDEOTAPE INTERVIEW OF ABUSED MINOR Number 001 CHAIRMAN GREEN called the Senate Health, Education and Social Services (HESS) Committee to order at 9:00 a.m. and introduced SB 188 as the only order of business before the committee. SENATOR MILLER, Co-Sponsor of SB 188, read the following sponsor statement: PURPOSE: this legislation was prompted by distress from concerned parents requesting a more stringent "check and balance" accountability system for state agencies in regard to child abuse legislation. INTENT: is that all interviews be video taped from the onset with allegedly abused or neglected children; furthermore, the interview may not proceed unless the above mentioned process is in place. In turn this would help implement sound public policy by requiring accountability of agency action in the sensitive area of state interference in private family life; it would also provide a protection of the rights of the person conducting the interview. I strongly urge your support of SB 188. Senator Miller pointed out that the Ombudsman's report in the committee packet raises many concerns regarding the handling of the reports. He stated that one of the biggest case loads that a legislator faces is problems with the department of which the department seems to be wrong the majority of the time. There does not seem to be a standard that the department follows. He noted that when he was a member of the Legislative Budget & Audit committee a few years ago, the department was not handing out the required pamphlets. Senator Miller acknowledged that the agency is not happy with this bill and have attached large fiscal notes in order to kill the bill. He requested that the agency come forward and address the problems and ways to alleviate them. Number 079 SENATOR TAYLOR, Co-Sponsor of SB 188, discussed his experience on the bench and the bar with regards to drunk driving. He estimated that when he went to the bench, there was a 50 to 60 percent conviction rate of those drunk drivers having an aggressive trial. Shortly after that time, Alaska's police departments and state troopers began videotaping the "drunk" individual doing the field sobriety tests. The conviction rate rose above 75 percent. Senator Taylor emphasized that videotaping is the single most valuable tool in law enforcement because it brings the best evidence into the courtroom. Senator Taylor informed the committee that a few years ago the department had estimated that 60 to 70 percent of the child abuse cases were dismissed as not found after a thorough investigation. That presents concerns about the inability to know the number of true perpetrators that have gone free. Even more disturbing, is the inability to know how many have been wrongly accused and have had their lives destroyed. We are not utilizing the proper tools to determine if the incident did or did not occur. Number 151 Senator Taylor discussed his experience with the prosecution in such cases coming without notes or protocol; there never seemed to be a pattern. He suggested that videotaping would eliminate the complaint in court about hearsay testimony which is often utilized in child abuse cases. Videotaping is the most tremendous evidence put before a court. He cited budget constraints and lack of training of personnel as reasons why videotaping in such cases has not been performed. The State should spend money on this in order to deal with it properly. Number 209 Senator Taylor acknowledged that the bill had been hastily drafted and they had not been able to work with the department yet. He recognized that in some instances, the application of the bill may be difficult. Hospital directors have expressed concern that they would be required to have someone trained to do videos in the emergency room; women's shelters have similar concerns. He hoped that everyone involved would come forward in order to work on this issue to avoid situations like the one described in the Ombudsman's Report. The Ombudsman's Report recommended that case workers retain their original file notes and maintain them in the case file. In the case the Ombudsman investigated, not only were the original file notes lost but also the transcription of those notes were lost. Furthermore, the agency refused to accept that recommendation by the Ombudsman's recommendation. Number 246 SENATOR SALO pointed out that Senator Taylor's example of videotaping drunk drivers videotapes the perpetrator rather than the victim as in a child abuse case. She believed videotaping an abused minor was meritorious in drawn out cases, however, caution should be taken in order not to further victimize the child. She indicated that videotaping the accused perpetrator of child abuse at the time of the charge could be important. She asked if the bill allows a case to be thrown out because no videotape was taken. SENATOR TAYLOR said yes and agreed with Senator Salo's concerns. Senator Taylor hoped that the committee process would result in a better SB 188. SENATOR LEMAN asked if the report was the response to the feasibility study that the Ombudsman recommended for the Division of Family & Youth Services. SENATOR TAYLOR replied yes. Number 281 DEL SMITH, Deputy Director of Division of Public Safety, opposed SB 188 as currently written. He believed that capturing an interview on video or audio produces a good product which should always be strived toward. The provision of the bill that the prosecution of the suspect would not go forward if that videotape was not done causes great concern and is the reason the department opposes the bill. In the case of a drunk driver, the prosecution would not be precluded even without the audio or video. SENATOR SALO asked if any videotaping was currently being done in any child abuse and neglect cases. DEL SMITH replied yes. Mr. Smith believed that at least four departments have rooms specifically set up to interview children. SENATOR TAYLOR noted that Chief John Newell's letter reported that Sitka routinely videotapes interviews of children regarding suspected abuse. DEL SMITH said that Chief Newell's letter represented his personal opinion. Mr. Smith seemed to think that SB 188 would require that a conversation, perhaps with a teacher, began by a child would have to be stopped in order to videotape the conversation. That is a concern because not all the people a child could have a conversation with are under Mr. Smith's control and would that information be unusable. Number 324 SENATOR SALO asked if videotaping as an investigative technique or protocol was the trend. Will there be more than four rooms in the state for such videotaping in the next few years? DEL SMITH believed that if videotaping is possible then it should be done. The main concern is that if for some reason be it a logistical or a technical difficulty the videotape is not done, then the person could not testify as to their conversation with the child. SENATOR TAYLOR inquired as to how the bill could be changed in order to avoid that problem while encouraging the utilization of videotaping. DEL SMITH was unsure. In Mr. Smith's view, the goal of videotaping is desirable and should be obtained. Mr. Smith suggested that evidence could be presented in order to explain why a video was not acquired in a particular case. Mr. Smith mentioned another bill which had an audio tape serve as a backup, however, again the inability to continue with only notes is a concern. SENATOR TAYLOR discussed an experience on the bench which illustrated his fear that the department would not find videotaping convenient. He admitted that he was not comfortable with the dismissal of a case without video, but what other method could be utilized in order to encourage the use of videotaping in suspected child abuse cases. DEL SMITH offered to consult with law enforcement across Alaska in order to make some recommendations. The intent of legislation such as this should be the protection of the victim and future victims. Number 391 DIANE WORLEY, Director of the Division of Family & Youth Services (DFYS), stated that the division is opposed to SB 188 as currently written. She acknowledged that the issues of accountability, the safety of children, and the protection of families are all important. Concerns regarding the mandatory aspect of the bill were reiterated. She mentioned that there are many field offices which are one person offices. In the current system, mandatory videotaping in every case is impossible. CHAIRMAN GREEN inquired as to how many cases are handled each year. DIANE WORLEY informed the committee that there are approximately 20,000 reports of which about two-thirds are investigated. DIANE WORLEY stated that requiring every case be videotaped would also require lots of time, effort, and money. She pointed out that often children in these cases move around during the interview which would create difficulties in acquiring a good quality film of that testimony. Furthermore, DFYS wants to protect the interests of the child without being any more intrusive than the interviewing process already poses. DFYS feels that for some children the video camera and additional people in the room during the interview would be inhibiting. Also some of the children, especially those involved in sexual abuse, experienced video cameras as part of the abuse which could be damaging to that child. Number 427 Ms. Worley recognized that one issue taken with DFYS is that they take too many children into their custody. Children are taken into State custody only when absolutely necessary. Under this bill's mandatory provision, more children would be taken into emergency custody in order to take the child to a place to videotape the interview. Also if parents do not consent to the interview being videotaped, children would have to be taken into emergency custody in order to comply with the mandatory provision of the bill. CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if parents can currently deny an interview with the child in the home and would the division then take emergency custody of the child. DIANE WORLEY replied yes. DIANE WORLEY informed the committee that she had been Director for only ten months. She did believe there to be some inconsistencies within the system as it is applied across the state, however, flexibility to address the different communities and families is necessary. There are policy and procedural manuals that are to be followed by the staff. Those manuals are being updated in order to create more consistency across the state. Also the issue of training is important. Ms. Worley did not believe that the division has had enough training for the staff. This is being reviewed through the establishment of a new training plan. The division is also reviewing accreditation procedures for social workers in order to be consistent with youth service staff and juvenile probation officers who are accredited. Another area under review is the hiring procedures; tighter requirements for the register and becoming a social worker are being worked on. Ms. Worley also expressed the need to review the notion of cross- training with DFYS and DPS, especially in the cases of sexual child abuse because they are criminal cases. DFYS does try to videotape an interview with DPS in such cases, although it may not be the initial interview. Ms. Worley noted that some rooms for videotaping purposes are being set up in nonprofits. Number 476 CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if that would cover DFYS personnel. DIANE WORLEY clarified that some nonprofits are setting up rooms in areas where such rooms are unavailable at the police station. The availability of rooms is increasing across the state. Ms. Worley mentioned that there is a pilot project in the Anchorage Providence Hospital in which all children who are sexually abused go through a videotaped interview at the Child Advocacy Center. Ms. Worley expressed concern with the costs brought about by this bill. Mandatory videotaping would require the necessary equipment and staff as well as training to carry out this provision. She indicated that money would probably be funneled to the training of operating video equipment rather than training on interview techniques. There would also be concerns regarding the confidentiality of the tapes; who would have access to the tapes? Where would the tapes be stored and what would that cost? She mentioned the cost of transcription. What would happen to a case if the audio portion was not good quality and not usable? Number 504 SENATOR MILLER expressed concern with Ms. Worley's admittance that the staff lacked training and yet they still are allowed to go into the field without using resources to better their training. Senator Miller felt that training should be a priority. DIANE WORLEY agreed and reiterated that the division is moving in that direction. Ms. Worley emphasized that the majority of the staff is well trained, but there has been a reduction in available training over the past years. Ms. Worley explained that as budgets have decreased so has training since it is often considered a luxury; however she did not agree with that view. Ms. Worley reiterated that the division is reviewing accreditation and hiring procedures. Also there is the possibility of a testing procedure for basic skills before an employee is placed on the register. SENATOR MILLER asked if all notes taken on a child abuse or neglect case are kept in the file or are they being destroyed. DIANE WORLEY reiterated that the division is updating its policy and procedures manual of which that is a portion. Ms. Worley clarified that in the Ombudsman's case, the original notes were destroyed but the transcription was not destroyed and was present in the file. Ms. Worley believed that those notes should have been in the file. A committee is working on the policy and procedure manual in which that issue will be addressed. Currently there is no policy requiring that the notes be placed in the file. SENATOR MILLER did not understand why that issue is being reviewed due to the importance of that information. DIANE WORLEY reiterated that she had only been the director for a short time and was proceeding as best she could on the issues. Number 539 SENATOR TAYLOR asked Ms. Worley if he was correct in that DFYS handles a child abuse case differently than a child sexual abuse case. In a child sexual abuse case, the child's interview is videotaped at some point. DIANE WORLEY replied yes and explained that the child sexual abuse cases are mainly in the criminal courts as opposed to the civil courts. Because DFYS works closely with public safety officers in order to establish the criminal case, DFYS works with them in obtaining videotape. SENATOR TAYLOR surmised that Ms. Worley was referring to another category with child abuse cases. Therefore, the protocol is not to do videotaping in child abuse cases. DIANE WORLEY explained that current protocol views video and audio taping as something that can be done, but there is not the capability or equipment to do so in all cases. Ms. Worley reiterated the impracticality of attempting to videotape every interview due to logistical obstacles. SENATOR TAYLOR asked if the current protocol regarding child sexual abuse cases, forces the child to have an additional interview. This child has probably been interviewed three or four times by the time the case is determined to be sexual abuse in which the interview must be videotaped. Because the video is not done early or done by DFYS, the enforcement personnel must do another interview with the child. DIANE WORLEY explained that when there is suspected child sexual abuse and disclosure begins, the interview is often stopped and DPS is contacted so there would not be multiple interviews. In most cases, regardless of the videotaping, a child would probably face two interviews. SB 188 would require that the disclosure in front of a camera would begin before DFYS even knew if there was anything to interview. Number 573 SENATOR TAYLOR inquired as to how Ms. Worley's testimony would differ if the department wanted to do this videotaping. DIANE WORLEY said that she could not respond to that hypothetical question. In her opinion, mandatory videotaping would not work under any circumstance. However, Ms. Worley did believe that there are situations in which videotaping is appropriate such as child sexual abuse cases. Audio taping can also be useful. Mandatory videotaping is impractical and would put more children at risk. SENATOR TAYLOR reiterated that police officers do everything possible to obtain the best possible evidence to make the case. TAPE 96-6, SIDE B Senator Taylor asserted that this department indicates that under no circumstance would they be forced to videotape and it would be avoided at all costs and there are separate protocols for how cases are handled. If the case looks as if it will go to court, then law enforcement utilizes videotaping. He asked if the videotaping was being done in the department's offices. DIANE WORLEY specified that where an interview is videotaped depends upon the community in which the case is located. Also joint interviews are done with DPS in sexual abuse cases. SENATOR TAYLOR clarified that he meant, DFYS is adopting law enforcement's protocol. DIANE WORLEY explained that the protocol of DFYS regarding child sexual abuse cases is that DFYS works with DPS. SENATOR TAYLOR emphasized that the protocol for DFYS does not include videotaping while law enforcement protocol does include videotaping. DIANE WORLEY agreed, but noted that DFYS does have protocol which strives for the best evidence possible through appropriate interviewing techniques and case work. However, videotaping is not being utilized in every case. Number 568 SENATOR TAYLOR pointed out that the people of Alaska, even in territorial days, required that every committee hearing be transcribed as well as the votes on the floor which illustrates the importance of keeping records. He encouraged the department to keep better records of these incidents for both sides of the case. CHAIRMAN GREEN requested that Ms. Worley work with the sponsors on this bill. SENATOR SALO observed that DFYS and DPS have different missions. The mission of DFYS is the protection of the child while the mission of DPS is to create a criminal case. Therefore, the protocols of the two differ as well. SENATOR MILLER asserted that the lack of a paper trail is unexcusable. SENATOR SALO felt that Senator Miller's statement was a gross generalization. In the Ombudsman's Report, the Ombudsman did note that the paper trail could have been handled differently. She was sure that there is a paper trail and records on the cases in DFYS. She did agree that sometimes it could be better. DIANE WORLEY stated that there is a clear paper trail. Ms. Worley surmised that Senator Miller was referring to the handwritten notes which are often taken in a person's individual short hand. All those transcribed notes are kept in the file as well as every contact with the family. SENATOR TAYLOR identified another mission of DFYS, to reunite the family. DFYS has to make a discretionary call on whether to reunite the family or prosecute based on the interview. When that decision is made, then the very best evidence should be available. He expressed disappointment and frustration in all the excuses why DFYS does not want to have the best evidence. CHAIRMAN GREEN informed the witnesses that their testimony should be limited to three minutes. If several people representing an organization have the same thought, perhaps, one spokesperson could outline the organization's position. Any information can also be faxed to 465-3805 which will be distributed to the committee members. Number 528 JOANN HAWK, testifying from Bethel, opposed SB 188. She discussed the access problems in the rural areas. She felt that putting children, especially those in the Bethel area, in front of a video camera would make these children feel more ashamed. CONNIE TROMBLE, speaking on behalf of a native woman from Alaganik, opposed SB 188. She explained that Upiaks are very shy and are not accustomed to being on camera; this would jeopardize rather than help the situation. HELEN SORENSEN, testifying from Bethel, informed the committee that she had been working with children for the past ten years. Children often feel that abuse is their fault. She felt that children would feel victimized again when they are videotaped as well as when they go to court. Because of the quiet nature of the natives in the area, videotaping would be intimidating. She mentioned the need for confidentiality in the videotaping. She posed a situation in which the family could find fault with the interview or the videotaping, that staff would be liable and scrutinized for their work. Many will have their jobs on the line, especially if they are unexperienced in this area. Number 472 CARMEN LOWRY, Executive Director of the Tundra Women's Coalition (TWC), explained that TWC provides a range of services from emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault to legal amnesty for victims testifying in court. TWC provides these services in the Yukon-Kuskokim Delta Region which encompasses 100,000 square miles and approximately 52 villages. She expressed concern with SB 188 which she did not believe had received the necessary time and scrutiny. She was concerned that SB 188 was not intended to increase the safety of abused children, but rather to enhance the public's trust in the fairness of the child protection system. SB 188 will not improve the public's perception nor will it encourage more children to speak out about their abuse. Therefore, training for child protection staff must be improved as well as creating public confidence in the State's system. Ms. Lowry questioned the quality of justice being offered to the young victims under SB 188 when the burden of the public's perception of state agencies is placed on the backs of the victims. Currently, there are no mandatory requirements for the videotaping of adult victims. She pondered the extent to which child victims of violent crime should be treated differently than adult victims. She urged the committee to oppose SB 188. Imagine being a child that does not speak English as their first language and lives with the perpetrator of their abuse; what can leaders and policy makers do in order to protect these children and make them feel safe when reporting abuse? Number 439 ANNE CARPENETI, Criminal Division of the Department of Law, opposed SB 188 for the following reasons: (1)Videotaping can be intrusive and intimidating to anyone, especially children. In imagining what it would be like to be a child disclosing abuse or neglect to a stranger, Ms. Carpenenti was reminded of her own adolescent daughter having to go into another room to tell her she received a C on a math test. (2) The bill is too broad. The bill covers the first conversation a child would have with a teacher; before the teacher could ask who did it, a video camera would have to be obtained in order to record the disclosure. That is impractical and unfair to the child. This applies to prosecutors and public defenders but not to private attorneys or private investigators which affords them an unfair advantage. The department also fears that unrecorded interviews would be suppressed by being found to be illegal. (3) The resources necessary to administer this bill would divert the scarce resources of the State. SB 188 would limit the ability to protect children. SENATOR TAYLOR asked if the Department of Law opposed the protocol of DPS in which they do everything possible to videotape the juvenile before the case goes before the District Attorney. ANNE CARPENETI said no and clarified that the Department of Law opposes the mandatory nature of SB 188. Of course, the Department of Law wants the best possible evidence in every case, but it is not appropriate to mandate the videotaping of every interview with a child. SENATOR MILLER expressed confusion with Ms. Carpeneti's testimony that videotaping would be intimidating to the child, but when DPS performs the videotaping there is no problem. ANNE CARPENETI clarified that often when the police perform the videotaping, there are one way mirrors and other ways in which it is not intrusive and not intimidating. A video camera would be intimidating no matter what the circumstances. When prosecutors interview children, they attempt to make the experience as easy as possible. The department does not oppose videotaping and in many cases videotaping would be preferable in order to eliminate multiple interviews. However, SB 188 sweeps too broadly. SENATOR TAYLOR said that he and Senator Miller agreed. He explained that the department doing the initial investigations should act consistently with the department that does the prosecutions. He did not want to see cases thrown out due to the lack of a videotape, but at the same time the pattern of throwing out 70 percent of the cases before the department should not continue either. He hoped that the department would assist in the development of a better system. Number 374 SENATOR SALO noted that currently, Alaska allows police officers and agencies to utilize video and audio taping and bring that into the court. No states have mandatory videotaping requirements. She emphasized that videotapes are not an absolute assurance that the evidence would proceed smoothly in court. In some states that utilize videotapes more than in Alaska, the technical issues of the videotape become the focus. She pointed out that the arguments regarding how notes are taken could be applied to the videotaping as well. The intent of the sponsors is good, but the legislation is not worth trying to fix. The pieces to achieve the intent is already in law. If the intent is to improve the use of videotaping, then the money necessary for the equipment and for more taping sites could be placed in the budget. Number 348 HELEN MEHRKENS, Department of Education, opposed SB 188 as currently written. She reiterated the concerns surrounding the privacy and protection of the child. Also the implementation of the bill is reason for concern; as written, a child's initial conversation with school personnel would be considered the initial interview. The school is not prepared to videotape those conversations which often begin as a regular counselor visit, a guidance process or clarification process. Attempting to obtain and set up the video equipment that would more than likely be located in another classroom would be disruptive to the child who would be conversing with a person, determining whether they are a safe person to talk with or not. Ms. Mehrkens expressed concern with the prospect that the conversations a child might discuss in the classroom before an investigation took place would be considered part of the interview process also. Most of these children continue in the classroom as the investigation continues. Would the teacher not be allowed to ask how the child is doing or any other nurturing types of conversations? SENATOR TAYLOR pointed out that AS 47.17.027 provides that any time an interview is done by the department in the school, a teacher must be present. In the Ombudsman's Report, there is a required agreement between the department and the school regarding how such incidents would be handled. Then a finding must occur in order to determine if the teacher would be allowed to be present during the interview. In the Ombudsman's Report, no such agreement had be entered into with this pre-school not to mention that they violated law in the manner in which the interview was done. The person who came to perform the interview insisted that the teacher not be present during the interview. That illustrates a tremendous amount of discretion by a staff member that the department has agreed is very poorly trained. Are there ways in which the utilization of video and audio tapes could be encouraged? He reiterated that 70 percent of the cases return the child to the home because of the inability to prosecute the case. He expressed concern that when a poor case is developed, the child is returned to the same house with no protection. He did not believe that all 70 percent were bad cases. Senator Taylor requested that Ms. Carpeneti review how the school districts implement Title 47, if the school districts have agreements with DHSS, and to what degree is it working. Number 265 DAN LABROSSE informed the committee that he had been a social worker for Alaska, had been trained by DFYS, and had conducted these interviews. He stated that the interviews were very difficult. He specified that he has a masters degree in counseling, is a specialist in deafness, and he worked mainly with families with disabled children. Families with disabled children have a tendency for abuse. Throughout his time as a social worker, he utilized video cameras whenever possible, especially in sexual abuse cases. Sexual abuse cases are the hardest in which to obtain solid evidence. Often the only access to video equipment was through the police or the military police. Mr. LaBrosse emphasized that this type of evidence is difficult to obtain. A trusting relationship must be developed with the child in a short time period; it is easier to do this in familiar and comfortable environments such as the home. Some children are non verbal and require the use of anatomically correct dolls. He noted that he would observe how a child would react to a teacher's presence. Mr. LaBrosse suggested that observation rooms with one way mirrors could be useful. He mentioned that there is research regarding setting up such rooms. He emphasized that there should not be any impediments to the access of this information. In conclusion, Mr. LaBrosse noted that many incidents of child abuse are not even reported which is frightening. SENATOR SALO inquired as to how often Mr. LaBrosse experienced false reports. DAN LABROSSE specified that he was a social worker for a year and a half and did not remember having a false report. Mr. LaBrosse noted that he would not take custody of a child unless he believed that the child was in imminent danger. There are different degrees of intrusiveness regarding taking custody of the child. The intrusiveness can range from emergency custody to placing the child in a foster home. Mr. LaBrosse felt that he was extremely well trained through the division. Mr. LaBrosse encouraged making the bill work. Number 168 MICHELE CALLAHAM, Executive Director of Unalaskans against Sexual Assault and Family Violence, said that she was an opponent of SB 188 as currently written. She did not believe that videotaping would resolve the concern regarding the training of a social worker in order to administer effective and appropriate interviews. Since this is a training issue, better safeguards in regulation and policy and procedure should be reviewed. She emphasized that efforts should be focused in that area. SB 188 is an extreme measure. Ms. Callaham informed the committee that Unalaska is 800 miles from Anchorage and their social worker is charged with serving the entire Aleutian Pribolof Region which is isolated, often with inclement weather. She could not imagine how their social worker could do her job effectively if the social worker was constantly concerned about the interview of a child, the availability of video equipment and a room in which to utilize the equipment. Ms. Callaham was concerned with Alaska's high child abuse and sexual abuse rate and the training of the social workers. Ms. Callaham supported all the comments made by Ms. Lowry. Number 111 LINDA GAUTHIER, testifying from Homer, informed the committee that she was representing Guardians of Family Rights. She agreed with the observation that those in this field do not want this bill. She emphasized that the policy and procedures in place are not being followed and there is no accountability. There needs to be a check an balance that protects the child, the family as well as the social worker. She indicated that it is easy to lead a child in such cases. Videotapes do not lie and can be very useful. GENE OTTENSTROER, Guardians of Family Rights, stressed that a parent should be notified before an interview occurs. She asserted that there is child abuse and a lot of it is in the department. She suggested that cutting the funding to these departments would decrease the child abuse. Videotaping is necessary and should be administered by a third party. TAPE 96-7, SIDE A PAM GRANT, Stand Together Against Rape, stated that SB 188 was not in the best interest of the child. Children do not have a high trust level when speaking only to adults, this trust level must be developed at their own pace. A child is placed in an uncomfortable position when the child is interrupted during the disclosure process in order to videotape the interview. Ms. Grant opposed SB 188. Number 039 JENNIFER BOSTICK, testifying from Ketchikan, informed the committee that she had been abused. She did not believe that SB 188 was right. It was hard enough to talk to a complete stranger about what happened and she did not believe she could have disclosed the information in front of a camera. DUANE STONE, Officer in the Ketchikan Police Department, said that he did use video cameras as often as possible, but he attempts to be as low profile as possible with children. He reiterated concern that a case could be lost because videotaping was not available. Often the foresight or knowledge that a disclosure is coming in order to prepare to videotape the disclosure is not present. Ketchikan does have a facility to utilize concealed cameras for interviewing children. Videotaping is not practical in all cases, especially in cases of neglect. DFYS often makes trips to the home of such a reported case and discovers that it is not valid. Storing a tape of that for evidence purposes for two to three years would seem ludicrous. Officer Stone believed that videotaping should be done whenever possible, but mandatory videotaping is of great concern. He discussed the concern about technical difficulties being a reason for not proceeding with a case. CHAIRMAN GREEN recognized that there were three people in Anchorage who are affiliated with Women In Safe Homes (WISH). She requested that one person act as a spokesperson for the group due to the lack of time remaining. Number 128 KRISTI HERRMAN, Women In Safe Homes, stated that SB 188 is not intended to protect children but rather punish DFYS for some perceived inefficiency. If there are problems with the training aspect of DFYS, that could be addressed in other forums. Requiring that children be videotaped and not adults or perpetrators merely sustains the misconception that children are inherently unbelievable. DAN MORRIS, Chief of the Kenai Police Department, opposed SB 188. The bill requires a trained investigator. Kenai does not have the luxury of sending all of its investigators to that training. In sexual abuse cases, videotaping is always strived towards but it is not always possible to videotape every interview. Chief Morris reiterated the difficulty in stopping a spontaneous interview that could happen in any number of places, from a squad car to school. The child is traumatized further when the interview is stopped in order to move to a place where the videotaping could occur. Chief Morris agreed with Senator Salo in that there is nothing salvageable in SB 188. The issues can be addressed through regulation, policies, procedures and training as Ms. Callaham mentioned. BRENDA WIEFFERING, Executive Director of the Kenai-Soldotana Women's Resource and Crisis Center, opposed SB 188. The bill does not provide for the spontaneous disclosure of abuse. Disclosure would be inhibited when the interview is stopped in order to set up video equipment. Videotaping children is intimidating and victimizing, especially repeatedly. Furthermore, the videotaping would not eliminate court testimony which is also very traumatic. If the concern is in the interviewing techniques, such as using leading statements, then training is the cure not videotaping the victim. Ms. Wieffering felt that as long as the potential for child abuse remained, adults should be willing to undergo the scrutiny not the child victim. Requiring that all interviews be videotaped is not realistic and would interfere with effective prosecution which leaves children in further danger. Number 201 WALT BONNER, Chief of the Soldotna Police Department, opposed SB 188 as it is currently written. SB 188 is too broad and therefore the likelihood of losing cases because of the lack of equipment. Often these cases are reported during the night to a dispatch center and a patrol officer is dispatched to the home. Videotaping that initial probable cause interview is not practical. He agreed that the formal interview should be videotaped, but videotaping every interview is impractical. HARRY NEHAUS, Guardians of Family Rights, supported SB 188. He posed the following question: what is traumatic? Is traumatic a few moments in front of a camera where the child may be intimidated or is traumatic a separation from the family. Most children are not shy in front of a camera, but if they are then the camera could be placed in an office with something draped over it. GENE ALTIG, representing himself, informed the committee that he was also a member of the Guardians of Family Rights and a member of the Mormon church. Mr. Altig supported SB 188. Video cameras are everywhere and weigh very little. For example, without videotaping in the Rodney King case no one would have known that Mr. King had stopped resisting arrest while the police did not notice. Often counselors involved in emotional issues such as child abuse and molestation, allow their journalism to get carried away. Mr. Altig suggested that a desk could be utilized to serve as security for the child and anchor the child for videotaping. Number 277 JODY DELANEY noted that the uniforms of Alaska's officers have videotapes. There is no check and balance. She informed the committee that her family was destroyed due to the lack of checks and balances. The school is not set up nor is it qualified to do social service work and these people do not want to be a part of the social service system. She informed everyone that Alaska leads the nation with 60 percent of reported cases being false. Alaska also has the highest rate of sexual abuse. If that 60 percent is eliminated, then the case load is decreased and more time is left for the other cases. In conclusion, Ms. Delaney said that the children are not against this. SENATOR MILLER acknowledged that there is work yet to be done on the bill, but the lack of the department's attempts to work through the problems is frustrating. He stated that this bill would be moving through the process and it would be to their advantage to come forth to work out a solution. SENATOR TAYLOR pointed out that if 60 to 70 percent of all of the criminal cases in any other areas were lost, would we feel comfortable returning that percentage back to society? Perhaps, mandating videotaping may not be the solution. Senator Taylor agreed with observations of difficulty in the implementation of the bill, but something more than leading the nation in the number of cases dismissed is necessary. That problem needs to be addressed. He encouraged all concerned about the legislation to come forward with information to increase good prosecutions and protection for the children. CHAIRMAN GREEN invited anyone interested to send suggestions, amendments, or deletions to the committee. The bill was held. Anyone who did not testify was welcomed to submit their testimony for the record. There being no further business before the committee, the meeting was adjourned at 10:54 p.m.