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NMSU partnership produces child safety videos for New Mexico law enforcement agencies

A series of compelling training films created at New Mexico State University will help law enforcement agencies across the state ensure child safety.

Female hands placed behind back and secured in handcuffs
A woman is seen handcuffed in the Creative Media Institute production 'Ensuring Child Safety: Upon Parental Arrest' (Courtesy photo)
A small child walking hand in hand with a law enforcement officer
A deputy from the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department escorts a child home in the Creative Media Institute production of 'Ensuring Child Safety: In Abuse and Neglect Referrals'

The three videos were produced by NMSU's Creative Media Institute in the College of Arts and Sciences in association with the Southwest Institute for Family & Child Advocacy. The 15-20 minute films, distributed in December to all law enforcement agencies in New Mexico, are designed to educate officers in New Mexico about child safety in traumatic situations involving abuse or neglect.

"Working with CMI to create these videos has expanded our thinking regarding ways to implement trainings," said Sabrina Van Why, senior program specialist for SWIFCA. "This project has sparked conversation regarding other places where a custom video would be more impactful then the current training format."

Other organizations involved in making the films include the Bernalillo County Sheriff 's Office, Children Youth and Families (CYFD), Protective Services Division (PSD) and New Mexico Children's Justice Act Advisory Group.

"We tried to be as creative as we could given the informative/educational nature of the material, so I hope we were able to make training videos a little more interesting for the law enforcement officers who will watch it," said Sherwin Lau, college assistant professor at CMI.

Prompting the project was 2007 legislation that called for new arrest protocol for law enforcement officers and changes to the Children's Code in 2009.

"Those changes resulted in comprehensive guidelines regarding protective holds in child abuse/neglect situations and the roles of PSD and law enforcement," Van Why said.

The curriculum team for the project included Van Why; Shelly A. Bucher, SWIFCA director; Rachel S. Azbill, Bernalillo County Sheriff 's Office (retired); and Andrea Poole, CYFD, PSD.

"Each of the training videos was created with the insight, support and advisement of New Mexican professionals in the fields of law enforcement, protective services, criminal justice and forensic services," Van Why said. "Along with utilizing these professionals in the development of the curriculum, some of them are also featured in the training videos both as experts sharing information and in scenarios."

"To make the videos feel authentic, we needed to work with actual law enforcement officers, social workers and other government officials," Lau said. "That was a huge challenge, but Sabrina Van Why did an amazing job in getting all these people to appear in the video."

SWIFCA partners with New Mexico's Children Youth and Families Department, Protective Services Division to provide training and workshops related to child welfare. The interdisciplinary project began in January 2011 and marked CMI's first collaboration with SWIFCA.

"I believe that film is a powerful medium, especially in our modern culture, so being able to use the medium to make an impact was an enormous privilege," said Lau, who produced all three videos and wore several hats for each film including director, additional editor, colorist and sound designer.

The first video, "Ensuring Child Safety: Upon Parental Arrest," focuses on tips and procedures for law enforcement officers when interacting with children during a parental arrest scenario. To view the video go to http://vimeo.com/50412092

The second training film, "Ensuring Child Safety: In Abuse and Neglect Referrals," concentrates on tips and procedures for law enforcement officers when faced with abuse and neglect referrals. The video can be seen at http://vimeo.com/50412091

And the third film, "Ensuring Child Safety and Minimizing Trauma," deals with procedures in minimizing trauma for children. To view the video go to http://vimeo.com/50412090

SWIFCA also provided supplemental training materials to state agencies. These included laminated cards that summarize the new Department of Public Safety arrest protocol, as well as phone numbers for Statewide Central Intake. Van Why said the DVDs and supplemental information were also made available to every PSD county office.

CMI filmmakers Lau and Mitch Fowler, both college assistant professors, were joined by former CMI students Orlando Martos, Matt Wilson, Chris Owings, Kristen Granados, Jake Bayless, Ivan Roman, Ben Munguia and Benito Barcenas on the crew.

Fowler, cinematographer for all three films, also directed the second and third videos. Additionally, Sam Muir, a former adjunct professor at NMSU, was the lead actress in one of the films.

The videos were produced with federal funding through the Children's Justice Act Advisory Group and the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.

SWIFCA's mission is to promote the safety, permanence, stability, and well being of children, youth and families in their communities through the development, implementation and evaluation of trainings, workshops and conferences for child welfare professionals and resource families throughout the state.

"I hope that this project is able to help law enforcement officers understand how to better deal with children in these unfortunate situations," Lau said. "I was able to meet and work with a number of great people from not only NMSU, but also all over the state. All of the people we worked with cared about the project and that made it an even bigger joy to work on this project."

"Members of the Criminal Justice Act Advisory Group, as well as representatives of the CYFD Office of the Secretary, have been very impressed with the quality of this project," Van Why said. "We anxiously await response from the law enforcement community statewide."