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Swanson creates group to help combat sexual assault

Lori Swanson

ST. PAUL—The state of Minnesota is narrowing in on ways to reduce sexual assaults, and it's doing that by gathering input from a collaboration of people who deal with the issue on various different levels.

Minnesota Attorney Lori Swanson's office recently began coordinating a sexual assault investigation work group that will make recommendations to the state Legislature leading up to its next session. Those recommendations could include suggestions such as researching best practices for law enforcement or providing more resources and training to the agencies who respond to the assaults.

The group will first meet on Sept. 18.

"Sexual assault is a horrendous crime, and the survivors deserve justice and compassion," Swanson said in a release. "The goal is for this work group to develop legislative and policy recommendations before the start of the next legislative session for improvements to the criminal justice system's response to these crimes."

The effort could fill gaps in the state's current procedural system. It also could provide those who deal with sexual assault victims more training than the state currently requires.

According to Swanson, Minnesota doesn't have "uniform policies" that direct law enforcement on how to investigate sexual assaults, nor does it have mandatory training for law enforcement officers who work in the field.

According to the release, the work group will include "leaders and experts" from a variety of fields, including victim advocacy, health care, and law enforcement.

The work group includes: Barb Johnson, Minneapolis City Council; Mark Hudson, Midwest Children's Resource Center medical director; Lisa Lovering, Isanti County Sheriff's Office chief deputy; Nicole Matthews, Minnesota Indian Woman's Sexual Assault Coalition executive director; Carolyn Porta, University of Minnesota School of Nursing director of global health; Teri Walker McLaughlin, Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault executive director; Elizabeth Richards, Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women executive director; Paul Schnell, Inver Grove Heights Police Chief; Nichole Sipes, St. Paul Police Department sergeant; and Paul Young, Anoka County Attorney's Office criminal Division chief.

Jordan Shearer

Jordan Shearer covers crime and social issues for the Bemidji Pioneer. A Rochester native and Bemidji State grad, he previously spent several years in western Nebraska writing for the Keith County News. Follow him on Twitter @Jmanassa

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