Authored By Sgt. Jim Markey (Retired), Phoenix Police Department Sex Crimes Unit
The Fundamentals of SART and MDT Success
For many years, I have had the opportunity to be a part of the sexual assault response teams (SARTs) and multidisciplinary teams (MDTs) that work to improve community response to sexual violence.
The SART and MDT members I’ve worked with have included some of the greatest and most intelligent champions in responding to sexual assault. These champions represent a range of disciplines, from advocacy to research, and from nursing to prosecution. I have an endless list of colleagues whose goal every day is focused on improving the way our communities respond to sexual assault.
Individually, we all have the ability to affect significant, but sometimes small, parts of the overall picture of response to sexual violence. But by collaborating we can create a “force multiplier” with the power to influence and institute wholesale changes in our communities.
However, not all of the teams of which I have been a part have succeeded; they have not always ended with the results we wanted to achieve.
What ingredients are present to make some teams successful and others struggle? What made some teams successful and high functioning with the ability to accomplish their mission and achieve their goals, while others struggle? Is there a core set of principles and standards that are needed in reaching the goal and completing the task?
Having first-hand experienced personally and professionally with many of these struggles and successes, I offer my observations.
Much as any football team needs an effective offense, defense and special- teams unit to win the game, so must all teams be designed to ensure the critical pieces of success are put into place.
The key ingredient is a common goal
As professionals, the importance of placing our own agendas and personal egos aside and working for a common cause cannot be understated. We must realize that we are involved in something much bigger than us individually. This can be challenging, but in the end, it builds a sense of team unity and selflessness. It encourages open and constant communication and the conviction that the team is working together toward a goal, through good or bad. We are there to support each other, hold each other accountable and stay focused on the mission.
A second critical component is leadership
Every successful team, organization, or effort I have seen succeed has possessed a strong, honest, intelligent leader.
This is not a leader who operates in a vacuum, but rather someone who has the qualities to communicate effectively, is inclusive of all members, resolves conflicts, imports new ideas, motivates and teaches the team, and when all the information has been gathered, is not afraid to decide. Being a leader takes commitment, energy and the application of common sense. A leader has a clear grasp of the issues and can keep the “ship” on track sailing toward its goal.
Next comes trust
Without question, this is one of the top ingredients for a team to survive. Individually we must trust our fellow team members, believing they will support the mission and each other in the good times and the rough times.
Trust takes time to build, but without this fundamental aspect things can go wrong: communication can be stymied, support questioned, conflicts ignited. Trust is not only about interacting with each other, it is also about trusting that your colleagues have the knowledge, skills, and abilities it takes to be a productive and contributing member of the team.
Finally, there is lane assignment
All team members need to clearly understand their role on the team, what they bring to the team, and their limitations.
It is not uncommon for some team members to stretch their expertise into an area where they should not. Many times, this results in unnecessary hard feelings and animosity toward each other. If you are a SANE on a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), provide your medical expertise. If you are a detective, share information about how law enforcement responds to and investigates a rape case. If you are an advocate, bring the team your skills.
A critical component of any successful team, working group or taskforce is ensuring that team members have the skills needed and understand how their skills will fit.
Survivors are the measure of success
The impact of a successful functioning SART or MDT in addressing sexual violence goes beyond the physical room where the team may gather.
The team’s true value can be seen on the faces of the survivors, in the change in cultural attitudes of the community, and in the ability of the criminal justice system–which is all of us–to function in a coordinated and seamless manner that ultimately holds sexual perpetrators accountable and provides victims a sense of justice.
About the author
Sgt. James “Jim” Markey. Recognized with over 30 commendations and awards during his more than 30 years of law enforcement experience with the Phoenix Police Department, Jim directly supervised the sexual assault unit for more than 14 years.
During that time, He oversaw the investigation of more than 7,000 sexual assaults, including over 150 serial rape cases. In 2000, he secured Violence Against Women grant funding to design, develop, and supervised a first-of-its-kind sexual assault cold case team with the City of Phoenix.
For the past 15 years, Jim has been a certified and nationally recognized trainer delivering in-person and on-line webinar training on sexual assault investigations and response for numerous criminal justice organizations.
He currently serves as a member of the NIJ SAFER Act Working Group and Editorial Team, NIJ Cold Case Working Group, Department of Defense Committee on the investigation, prosecution and Defense of Sexual Assault in the Military, Arizona Commission on Victims in the Courts (COVIC), and the Arizona Forensic Science Advisory Committee. Jim can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.