On March 16, 2016, Rep. Dianne Primavera and Sen. Kent Lambert introduced HB 16-1377 – Concerning the Creation of a Task Force on the Collection and Security of Digital Images of Evidence of Child Abuse or Neglect. The bill was assigned to the House Public Health Care & Human Services Committee, where it passed unamended. The bill passed through Second and Third Reading unamended and was introduced in the Senate in the Health & Human Services Committee. It was amended in committee and referred to the Senate Committee of the Whole for Second Reading.
This bill creates a task force to study and make recommendations on the current policies and procedures surrounding the collection and security of digital image evidence of child abuse or neglect.
The task force has three primary purposes:
- Study current laws, rules, and practices followed in Colorado – and best practices in other states – regarding the collection and security by county employees of digital evidence of suspected child abuse;
- Consider whether the statutes and practices concerning the collection and use of digital evidence of suspected child abuse are consistent with the existing and emerging technologies; and
- Recommend the best practices to be used in the collection and security of digital evidence of suspected child abuse.
In carrying out purposes (1) and (2), the task force shall investigate:
- The laws, practices, and standards governing how a county employee takes, maintains, and disseminates digital images of the child to document child abuse, considering the importance of balancing the need to collect evidence with the need to protect the privacy and constitutional rights of the parents and child;
- The safeguards used by county employees to ensure the best interest of the child when documenting digital evidence of suspected child abuse;
- The role of law enforcement agencies in conducting a child abuse assessment or investigation, as well as how law enforcement agencies, county departments, and medical professionals collaborate during assessments or investigations; and
- The laws, practices, and standards governing the taking of digital images of children’s bodies, as well as the audio or videotaping of a child interview.
In carrying out purpose (3), the task force shall submit to a number of specified state agencies, departments, and institutions an initial report by December 1, 2017. A final report shall be submitted by December 1, 2018.
The membership of the task force shall consist of the following members:
- Executive director of the Department of Human Services, or his or her designee;
- Child protection ombudsman;
- Attorney representative of the office of the child’s representative;
- Attorney representative of the respondent parents’ counsel;
- The Governor shall appoint the following members, all of whom should have experience in dealing with child abuse cases: licensed pediatrician, law enforcement officer/investigator from a rural area, law enforcement officer/investigator from an urban area, representative who oversees the child welfare training academy, director/administrator of a county department of social or human services, sexual assault nurse examiner, and a license child psychiatrist or psychologist;
- The Speaker of the House of Representatives shall appoint the following members: forensic interviewer of an accredited child advocacy center with experience interviewing abused children, representative of a statewide professional social work organization with experience counseling abused children, certified foster parent, representative of a law and policy child advocacy group or agency, and a caseworker that conducts assessments of child abuse cases; and
- The President of the Senate shall appoint the following members: county attorney with experience in dependency or neglect cases, a school representative (such as a principal, administrator, or school nurse), representative of a nationally recognized organization that works to prevent and treat child abuse, court-appointed special advocate for abused children, and a caseworker that conducts assessments of child abuse cases.
Appointments to the task force must occur on or before September 1, 2016. The first meeting of the task force shall occur on or before October 1, 2016.
Max Montag is a 2016 J.D. Candidate at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.