Tips for Joint Investigations with Military Criminal Investigation Organizations
*Editor’s Note: This article is part of In Public Safety’s April series recognizing Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM).
By Joshua L. Adams
Conducting a sexual assault investigation can be very difficult and complex. Unlike other property and persons crimes, physical and testimonial evidence to support the elements of proof is not always readily available as reporting can happen months and even years from the date of an incident.
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Sexual assault investigations are often even more difficult when they involve military members. These cases often receive increased scrutiny from the public and political figures because service men and women are considered America’s heroes and heroes are not supposed to commit crimes, especially sexual assaults.
What are MCIOs?
Military criminal investigation organizations (MCIOs) are charged with conducting complete, accurate, and thorough criminal investigations involving military personnel. Special agents assigned to MCIOs are considered sworn federal law enforcement officers. The following is a list of Department of Defense MCIOs:
- Army: U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID)
- Navy/Marines: Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS)
- Air Force: Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI)
- Coast Guard: Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS)
Miranda Warnings vs Article 31(b) Rights Warning
Most law enforcement officers know that Miranda warnings are only required when a suspect is in custodial interrogation. In the military, if a suspect is an active duty or activated reserve or National Guard service member, they have to be advised of their rights by a MCIO agent if questioned by them, even in a noncustodial setting. An activated reserve or National Guard service member does not have to have their rights read to them if questioned solely by civilian police officers in a noncustodial setting.
This is required by the Manual for Courts-Martial (MCM), in that a service member has the right to a warning against making self-incriminating statements under Article 31(b) of the MCM. This should be considered when civilian and military law enforcement authorities work joint investigations, especially by those agencies that have nearby military installations. It may be more beneficial in a case to conduct a civilian police officer led noncustodial interview and have the MCIO agent just observe the interview of the suspect.
Civilian law enforcement officers must be aware of this nuance concerning interrogations and questioning in order to ensure the successful prosecution of military offenders both in the military and civilian realms. This is especially important because many off-base sexual assault incidents are investigated by civilian police officers at first, but subsequently are tried in a military courtroom.
How to Handle Unit Commander Inquiries and Updates
Unlike civilian offenders, military sexual assault offenders have military commanders who are ultimately responsible for their actions, both on and off duty. The MCIO can be a helpful middleman to be a buffer between the law enforcement agency and the DoD.
Network with Military Police Peers
If you are a police officer whose jurisdiction is near a military installation, go to your local MCIO location and get to know one another. Military and civilian law enforcement are very similar, but there are important differences in protocol and procedure. Networking can also be very beneficial when an investigation crosses jurisdictional lines.
Sexual assault investigations with a military nexus require a multijurisdictional collaborative effort by all agencies involved in order to discover the truth and hold service members accountable for their actions.
About the Author: Joshua L. Adams has been in law enforcement for 13 years. He is certified in the DoD to supervise and investigate misdemeanor and felony level crimes. As a supervisory special agent of the United States Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID), Joshua has planned, conducted, and supervised more than 200 significant and complex investigations involving violations of Title 18 U.S. Code and the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) including fraud, rape, murder, sexual assault, arson, conspiracy and child pornography. He has also instructed more than 250 special agents in investigative policy and white-collar crime, narcotics investigations, homicide investigations, and sexual assault investigation methodology and best practices. Joshua is a 2014 graduate of American Military University, earning his master’s degree in criminal justice.