'We need to get better': ISP to hold anti-human trafficking training - East Idaho News

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‘We need to get better’: ISP to hold anti-human trafficking training

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BOISE — Idaho, like most states, has developed a history of failing the victims of human trafficking.

The Idaho Anti-Trafficking Coalition and Shared Hope International are two organizations that have raised questions about the shortcomings in Idaho’s handling of human trafficking and its victims.

RELATED | Report: Idaho is failing to protect victims of child sex trafficking

In its continued efforts to educate and prepare its officers to better handle the issue, Idaho State Police is hosting its first-ever human-trafficking training seminar.

“It’s definitely something that’s important to us,” ISP captain Shawn Staley told EastIdahoNews.com. “We need to get better at stopping human trafficking — we’ve got to.”

The one-day seminar will be led by representatives from Truckers Against Trafficking — a North American non-profit that, according to its deputy director Kylla Lanier, “educates, equips, empowers and mobilizes members of the trucking, bus and energy industry to recognize and report trafficking.”

As part of its efforts, TAT offers training to any industry that interacts with commercial drivers, Lanier told EastIdahoNews.com. That includes law enforcement.

Kylla Lanier, Truckers Against Trafficking, and Capt. Shawn Staley, ISP
TAT Deputy Director Kylla Lanier (left) and ISP Capt. Shawn Staley. | Courtesy ISP

While teaching an audience of law enforcement officers, she continued, the focus is on a victim-centered, best-practices approach. Identifying the signs of a trafficking victim, asking the right questions and building a relationship of trust.

As she explained, trafficking and the victims of it can often be missed, so officers must learn the proper investigative techniques.

“We do a human trafficking 101 with an overview of how we operate,” she said. “Then we have a survivor of human sex trafficking share her story — she shares her interactions with law enforcement, both the positive ones and the negative ones.”

Despite being fully aware of the existence and expansive effect of human trafficking, many officers learn just how difficult it is to identify during this seminar, Lanier said. Often, a trafficker-trafficking victim relationship can look like a dating relationship, she said, not something as “sinister” and “brutal” as it really is.

Staley, who has attended similar seminars in other states, described some of the things an officer can use to identify a trafficking victim.

They will usually avoid contact with police, he said, for many reasons. Victims are often forced to engage in illegal activity — like prostitution and drug muling — leaving them apprehensive around officers. They are also “mobile,” carrying suitcases with them, ready to relocate at their handler’s beck and call.

“These victims, oftentimes, are locked away for as long as the actual traffickers.”

Due to a lack of sound training and understanding, when the victims are uncovered it is often due to their own illegal activity — usually tied to their victimization. They are identified by police as drug users, drug sellers and prostitutes.

Rather than rescuing these victims, officers abiding by their training arrest the victims, who are then revictimized by the justice system.

“We’ve got to stop treating the women, or even the men — we’ve got to start treating them as victims instead of criminals,” Staley said. “That’s the only way we can put an end to this.”

Lanier agreed, adding: “These victims, oftentimes, are locked away for as long as the actual traffickers.”

This was the case in one story involving a woman who was used by her trafficker to transport heroin and cocaine from Utah to Idaho.

RELATED | ‘She’s been a victim almost all her life’: The story of a trafficking victim turned Idaho inmate

The state of Utah identified the woman as a victim of human trafficking and declined to press charges. Idaho charged her with drug trafficking and imprisoned her for three years.

As Staley said, traffickers claim control of the victims by using many methods. In some cases, the victim is controlled through threats of violence — against the victim or their loved ones. In others, the traffickers form a drug dependency in the victim then use that dependency to control them.

Staley has even heard of victims who had their children taken away by traffickers and forced to work for the safety of the child.

He is happy to bring this very necessary training to his fellow ISP troopers, training he believes is the first of many steps that must be taken in Idaho.

With training, he continued, will come an increase in trafficking cases and, in time, the development of task forces. And as additional arrests are made, attention will reach legislators, where new laws will bring about real change.

“We need tougher laws against (human trafficking), and hopefully this will help,” he said.

Along with targeting the traffickers, Lanier believes there needs to be harsher penalties for, in the case of prostitution — an industry fueled by and fueling human trafficking — the purchasers, or “johns.”

RELATED | A look at the sex trade in east Idaho from women who work it

“They have continually been given a slap on the wrist then sent home,” she said. “That’s got to change because they are the core issue — they are the driving force for the entire industry.”

Both Lanier and Staley cautioned against the opinion that Idaho is not a “hot spot” for human trafficking. As Lanier said, there is no hot spot, just places that have created more attention by pursuing traffickers and rescuing victims.

“It’s everywhere,” she said. “It’s everywhere where there’s prostitution. It’s everywhere where you have vulnerable populations … happening across the board, everywhere.”

ISP anti-human trafficking training
Courtesy ISP

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