In a review of how the military investigates child deaths, the Pentagon’s Inspector General found that 71 percent of criminal probes of child fatalities were flawed because investigators did not follow all required procedures, according to a new IG report.
The IG conducted a detailed review of the 82 child deaths — including eight homicides — that occurred over two years to evaluate the quality of investigations conducted, according to the report released Dec. 22.
Specifically, the IG reviewed the performance of the three military criminal investigations divisions, which include the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, or CID, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, or NCIS, and the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations, or OSI.
Child death investigations often involve looking for signs of neglect or abuse that could result in criminal prosecution.
The IG found no problems with 18 cases, or about 22 percent.
In 64 of the child deaths, or 71 percent, the IG found “minor deficiencies.” That included, for example, cases where:
• Investigators failed to collect or review appropriate medical records
• Investigators failed to record fingerprint impressions, mug photographs and DNA evidence
• Supervisors failed to conduct the required reviews of the investigations
In the case of six child deaths, the IG identified major problems with the investigation that likely affected the “integrity” or the “outcome” of the investigation. Those problems included:
• Investigators failed to collect key evidence from the death scene, the potential suspects, or the remains of the child victim
• Investigators failed to properly examine the potential crime scene, which may have resulted in the loss of crucial evidence
The Army’s CID was singled out for an especially large number of flawed cases. Of the 43 child deaths that CID investigated, four, or less than 10 percent, were found to be without problems. In 35 cases, the deficiencies were considered minor and in four cases the IG said the flaws were significant and likely affected the outcome of the investigation.
Many of the Army CID cases were flawed because they failed to document any headquarters-level quality assurance reviews, which are required under Army policies, according to the IG report.
The Army CID leadership concurred with the IG’s findings and in a Dec. 1 letter promised to improve its child death investigations. “CID is an organization dedicated to providing high quality death investigations to ensure justice for the victims,” an Army officer, whose name was redacted in the IG report, wrote in the agency’s official response.
The IG reviewed child fatality investigations that were closed during fiscal years 2012 and 2013.
The 82 child death investigations reviewed included eight that were ultimately ruled to be homicides, 20 that were ruled accidental and 30 that were ruled to be by natural causes. Three were suicides and in 19 investigations, there was no determination about the manner of death, the report said.
Of the six death investigations that the IG said were flawed enough to warrant further review, two of them were reopened for additional investigation and potentially revised findings.
A Military Times investigation in 2013 found 29,552 cases of child abuse in the Army alone between 2003 and 2012. The abuse led to the death of 118 Army children; 1,400 of the cases included sexual assault.
Subsequent inquiries by Military Times uncovered similar statistics in the other services.
Between 2008 and 2012, there were 5,755 cases in the Air Force, 267 of them sexual, resulting in 16 deaths.
The Marine Corps figures for 2011 and 2012 showed 1,591 cases, 47 of them sexual, with six deaths.
The Navy reported 3,336 cases between 2009 and 2012.
Original Source: http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/crime/2014/12/23/child-deaths-ig/20815991/